I lost my father during the global pandemic

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I had a dream last night. I dreamt that my father wasn’t dead.

It was jumbled in so many ways. But I was able to talk to him in my “sleep.”

I watched This is Us before bed. The episode where Randall questions whether William lied to him about his mother’s death. William saw her die, but she was revived after he ran away with Randall. Somehow, that made my mind wander in my sleep. Questioning if Kim had lied to me about Dad’s death.

I was so excited when I found out he was still alive. I was confused. I knew he had died. I was with him. I gave him morphine that night, as he struggled. The morphine that ultimately led to his cardiopulmonary arrest. We stood by him. We told him it was okay to go. We told him we loved him.

In my dream, there were very odd circumstances. I questioned my twin. How was he still alive? Her home, me being here but there, and our clothes closet from growing up. I was on the phone with her, but I was there. I was throwing her clothes out of the closet and looking for my clothes to take away from her. She didn’t deserve them. She had betrayed me.

That is how we used to fight. Me and my twin. We shared a room. Pink and green stripes on the wallpaper. Our pink and green afghans on our beds that grandma crocheted. Our bunk beds were placed on the floor because we grew out of them. When we argued, we would kick each other out. By emptying closets. Throwing clothes and telling each other that we didn’t want to be together anymore.

Erratic thoughts. Thoughts that put the present, recent past, and distant past all into one. This has been happening to me since the beginning of COVID. I awoke that morning uneasy. Very much like I had so many mornings before.

I told him to make his bed because I was coming to lie next to him so we could talk. Like we did the day he died.

We talked about everyone. His children. His five adult children. We knew that everyone would be OK. He knew. Even me, his daughter, who was struggling with so many personal issues. He knew he could leave. He worried about Joe. He paid for his cremation that day. He and Joe took care of business. The business of his demise.

I don’t remember what I said to him in my dream.

I don’t have my father to talk to. He died on April 20th with his five children at his side. He was a retired pediatrician of 46 years. He died of AML. He converted the week before his death to the most aggressive form. We all knew he was dying and would die fast. Or, at least I did. I had been through it professionally.

I had forbidden all of his children from seeing him the month before he died. We had to protect him from coronavirus. The infection would kill him. The last time I saw him was on March 12, the weekend everything changed. Including my ability to be there with him and for him. The weekend I said goodbye to my nurse of so many years. Her retirement. A really hard time. I said goodbye to him that night as we picked up the food for Sue’s retirement party. In fact, this would be the last time I would see my father up and about. In his Ironman car. Driving and so lucid. If only I had known that that was it.

We all got there on Saturday. He waited until we all arrived to become bed-bound. So amazing, his strength. He knew he was dying, but he still laughed, smiled, and joked with my eldest nephew that day on FaceTime.

He never got out of bed again. It was as if his body, bone marrow, and mind all gave up at once. He needed to know that all of us would be okay. He needed to see our beauty and faces. The faces that had supported him through the hardest 2.5 years of his life. His fight. Against his bone marrow.

His death was grueling. The most influential person in my life left me during the hardest time in my career. I had no father to talk to. He always talked me off the ledge. He was gay. He could never handle a damsel in distress. Even if it was me. My sounding board was gone. He was my person. In a sense, we would dance it out by talking through it.

But, there would be no more dancing.

I have had to endure this pandemic without him. I have had a few sightings. When I needed him the most, he was there. A cardinal. I waited for weeks for him to come. The times he came were so crucial. His presence was so calming.

He would have hated this. God probably took him at the right time for him. We have struggled with his loss. No funeral. No family gathering. We Zoomed with his cousins. We stuck to the rules. And, we stuck to his wishes.

I know that there has been so much loss during this pandemic. I know how hard it is to lose a loved one in 2020. I pray that all of us grieving can find some solace. I found mine in a dream.

He is gone but not forgotten.

Kelly Lisciandro is an internal medicine physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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