I have a distinct memory from when I was quite little…dancing with my Dad after dinner. I was probably 3 or 4 years old, and after dinner each night, my father would put on the record player and teach me to dance. My Dad was an older father, so the music was not of the time, but of his youth and he taught me how to waltz, to foxtrot and later how to jive.
In the early years he would have me stand on his feet and we would spin around the room. However as I became older he expected me to follow his lead. I distinctly recall my struggle in learning how to do this. It would take incredible focus, to let go and allow my body to feel the music, feel him and trust in the flow.
It is in this place of music and dance that my father and I would meet, and became the basis of our strong bond. This was a place where we could let go and feel safe holding each other.
In the last few days of my father’s life, he knew his time was close. His voice raspy thin and his breath gurgling of the death to come, it was time to allow the body to rest.
With little strength or control left in his body, he needed to move from his recliner chair to the bed.
With the help of neighbours and palliative care staff, we were able to support Dad to standing. But now how to get those legs to shuffle just a couple of steps so we could gently lay him down on the bed without tearing more of his paper thin skin.
Sensing his fear of what was ahead, I slipped in between all the arms holding and supporting him. Holding his body close to mine, I asked Dad to remember how he had taught me to dance, how he had taught me to trust and follow his lead…and let him know it was time for him to follow mine.
With tiny little steps his feet moved and we he laid him down.
Less than twelve hours later my father let go, allowed his body to follow the flow of life and death became him.
Whilst he let go, I will never let go of the experience of being met and held in life.
This was an everlasting gift.
Thank you Dad for the last dance...
(Specialising in working with the grief of life's transitions, Sarah Sacks, works from her practice The Grove Counselling, located in the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda East .)
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