My Father's Moon

This was written in Fall 2012, shortly after my father died.

My Father’s Moon

My father has a few more hours to live. The nearly full moon shines onto his bed. My mother gently rests her hands on his feet; my husband David, standing by the window, nods at the moon and softly suggests I tell Dad about it.

Dad, the moon is here tonight.
It is so beautiful.
Almost full,
it’s beaming cool liquid light
through the darkness, right to us.

This is your moon Dad.
It is shining all over you.
It is here tonight to greet your spirit.

Your moon is here to show you the way
on the next stage of your journey.

My father was a rigorous scientist: wildlife biologist, systems ecologist, statistician and forester. And, at heart, he was an ecstatic mystic and a romantic. His voracious intellectual curiosity was intricately interwoven with tender awe and acute pleasure of natural miracles. He always left the door open for Mystery.

Thank you Dad for teaching me
to cherish earthly wonders.
The moon in all its stages.
Each particular tree and birdsong.
Vigorous bite of pepper and tomato just off the bush.
Inexpressible joy of sunrise over the mountains.
Holy gratitude to each newborn toe.

Throughout my life Dad shared his delight in the full moon. Carrying me, before I could walk, into the warm Florida night to show me the glow through tall fragrant pines; calling my adolescent self out of bed, out of books, “Honey, come out here. You’ve got to see this moon.”  When I was a young mother in the city, he frequently phoned me, “Get your babies outside right now and look at this moon.”

Your love of natural beauty was too big to keep to yourself.
Thank you for sharing it so generously.
Thank you even for the times I felt annoyed.
Thank you.
You and the moon taught me to see.
Now I see it for you Dad.

After losing most of his eyesight to macular degeneration Dad still walked most nights onto his front deck and stared into the expansive night sky. Sometimes he would ask me to describe details to him, determined to experience life fully even in his loss.

Dad, your body is dying.
Soon your spirit will be free.
Your beautiful big spirit will be free to soar and expand  
into your next adventure.
This luminous moon friend is here to guide you,
to help you find your way.

For years Dad planted his garden by the moon, not because he was convinced it made a difference but because it felt good. He enjoyed noticing the cycles and feeling connected to larger cosmic rhythms.  Each Christmas I bought him a Farmers Almanac so he had a moon chart to reference. Inside the cover:
“Merry Christmas to Farmer Dad!
The Farmer’s Daughter”

Thank you Dad for all that you have given us.
Thank you for the strength and vigor of your precious body.

Thank you for the battles you fought,
dreams you followed,
land you cleared, homes you built,
food and ideas you brought to our table.

Thank you for the uncountable hours
you rocked and danced me in your warm arms and heart.

Two years ago my father’s dementia asserted itself periodically, intruding randomly as startling whirlwinds of confusion on the landscape of his crystalline intelligence.  I was speechless when he requested, “Honey, would you please explain to me the difference between the solstice and the full moon?”  Gut-sliced, I suddenly had to acknowledge what I was trying to deny: my brilliant, insightful father, who had always known more about more things than anyone I had ever met, was losing his mind.

All through your life this moon has been
waxing and waning above you.
As a little boy in Virginia,
a young man in a foreign war,
on midnight breaks at swing dances,
while hunting with your dogs,
you have loved this moon and
shared it with the people you loved.

Now your moon is here
pouring generously over your body,
anointing your passage..

It’s almost time, Dad, for you to step out of this body.
You don’t have to struggle anymore.
No need to keep enduring.

When you are ready, you can go.

 We can’t go with you,
but we’re here to help you.

Let yourself follow your moon.

My father’s earth body lies here on the narrow bed, barely moving, except for his ragged waves of breath. Yet I am certain -- I can see it more clearly than I see this room-- his soul body is active, engaged in a muscularity of dying. He is diving under rough salty breakers, row after row after row, vigorously, courageously swimming into the night sea.  He swims right into the moon path sparkling on dark water.

Thank you.

We love you.

We let you go.

Thank you.

We love you.

Two months later I am walking on our country road before dawn, having been pulled from sleep by the full moon. We walk westward together, my father’s face looking down from the shimmering orb, his spirit filling the sky. I loved early mornings as a teenager when Dad and I were the first ones awake: Dad drinking his steaming, pungent coffee and finishing lecture notes while I wrote in my dream journal, both of us looking out at the moon and the first colors of day.

Good Morning Dad.
Good Morning Sugar.  Gorgeous morning isn’t it?
Yes, it sure is.