I fell to the floor reeling in pain. Shuddering, sobbing, unable to be comforted. After months of trying to be a rock, stuffing, smothering and denying my feelings, I knew it was time to let go, it was time to cry.
"Go to the hospital." The prompting was precise and powerful. "Go to the hospital right now."
"Now?" I questioned. "But it's one in the morning. I can't go now." Though I remained inconsolable, I resolved to go to the hospital first thing the next morning during regular business hours. "Yes," I told myself, "I will spend the whole day there if I have to. It will be good."
My plan was confirmed by an early morning phone call from my mom, "Come to the hospital." She pleaded, "I need you here."
I spent the entire day at the hospital, just as I had planed to the night before, but it was too late. Too late for visiting, too late for hugs, too late for the exchange of "I love yous". My dad had slipped into unconsciousness, machines postponing the inevitable so that we could say our goodbyes, goodbyes that he could no longer hear.
It wasn't until later that I learned from a nurse that had cared for my dad the night before, that he had been awake and alert the very hour that I had felt prompted to go there. During that time he had spoken of his love for his family and his sorrow at having to leave us. A priceless conversation that I missed because visiting hours were over. I didn't know that I could have had access to my father at any time via the emergency room entrance.
It's the trip that I didn't take to the ER that I will always regret, but because of eternal families I know that I'll see my dad again, and oh the catching up we'll do. Starting with the conversation I missed that night in the hospital so many years before.