So, my father died. He died a week and a bit ago, late on a Monday night. My mother and sister had gone home for the night; my wife and remaining daughter were to fly in later in the evening, and my other sister the next day. But in the end, it was just Dad and me. It was unspeakably hard, the last day or so, and the last five minutes when I knew he was about to die were terrible. I loved my father greatly, and he loved me. We all knew he loved us deeply.
This is a blog about aid work in Afghanistan, the intersections between commitment, effort and outcome in the humanitarian sphere, and from the point of view of a person of faith – so I will not deviate too far into the business of my own grief.
It is hard though, to watch someone die, to be so ultimately powerless. So many things are in our control – or so we like to imagine – particularly in the comfortable West. Not death. I held his hands and cradled him as his breathing stopped, and then I just cried and cried.
In the last few days of my Dad’s life, I prayed that he would last, would live to see my sister married in June. Then I just prayed that he would make it out of this current onslaught of illnesses. Then I prayed he would last long enough to see his other daughter arrive. In the end I was praying he would make it through the night, and then simply that he would have a final moment of lucidity. With each step, my prayers became tighter and more limited their request, and in reflection, none of them were answered positively.
Though I guess you could interpret all that as the capriciousness (and therefore non-existence) of God, I suspect all it really means is I don’t get prayer properly. I think I often use prayer as a form of agitating God for what I want, which seems kind of pathetic when you hold it up to the light. I don’t really think that is what prayer is about. I am guessing it is more what Pete F reckons, a sharing of pain, joy, grief, insignificant moments and great ones.
That aside, I miss my Dad enormously.
We hope to be back in Kabul in April, but it is not clear how this all will work. We felt called to work and live in Afghanistan for the long haul way back in ’96, and that all has never changed nor been rescinded. But yet again, the disruptions and dislocations of life have derailed us somewhat.