Dad had Alzheimer’s disease. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I’ve been saying goodbye to Dad for the last couple of years. With every visit, a little more of him was hidden behind the veil of his confusion. A little more of the spark that made him him was lost.
And yet sometimes we would see him resurface for a few moments. I saw that especially when my spouse would play her ukulele and sing his favorite songs. Soon, Dad would be tapping his fingers in time and humming along, and occasionally he’d reach for his harmonica and join in. Music reached him in a way that words no longer could.
The long goodbye was difficult, but the more recent and final goodbye was more intense. Below are the comments I shared at the celebration of life for Allen George Salzer who passed on October 21, 2016.
I want to reassure you that Dad’s passing was peaceful.
Many family members had visited Dad on October 21st. Hospice came. Chaplains came. Stories were remembered and shared among family members, punctuated by some laughter and some tears.
Everyone filtered out of the room in ones and twos and threes. I stayed behind to spend some quiet time with Dad. His brother Dave had been listening to the rhythm of Dad’s breathing and had remarked to me that it was changing. So I sat by Dad’s side at 8 pm, in the dark, holding his hand and listening to him breath.
As I talked to him, his breathing began to slow. I told him how much I loved him, how much all of his family loved him…and his breathing slowed.
I told him what a great father and husband and brother and grandfather and uncle he had been…and his breathing slowed.
I told him he had prepared us well to continue on without him beside us, that we would be able to soldier on…and his breathing slowed.
I thanked him for all the wonderful things he did for us and with us, for his laughter and his tears, and for his constant support throughout our lives…and his breathing slowed.
At 8:30 pm I told him that if he was ready to let go, we were prepared. I repeated how much we loved him and would miss him…and his breathing stopped. I sat there, in the dark, holding his hand, waiting for him to take one more deep breath…and waiting…and waiting… … …and waiting.
In my five years as an emergency medical technician, I saw several people pass. Dad’s passing was the most gentle, peaceful letting go I’ve ever seen.
I am so blessed to have been able to be there with him and to shepherd his passing. He left us gracefully and at peace.
Today, I say farewell to the ten-foot-tall invincible warrior: my father, Allen Salzer.
Thank you to my siblings for their wonderful comments at the celebration of life. A special thank you to my brother and sister-in-law for gathering many great photos of Dad throughout his life, a few of which are shown below (and they were the photographers for a few of the photos). A special thank you to my younger sister for her great work on the obituary. And an extra special thank you to Mom and Dad for all they have done for us.