My daughter, Megan, and I saw my dad for what turned out to be the last time during the afternoon of Friday, December 30, in his hospital room in the ICU. He was just barely strong enough to talk to us, but alert enough to tell Megan that he looked forward to reading her next novel, and that he would be there for her high school graduation (which by the way would not be until 2024). When he said this, I thought he meant that he was going to fight, recover once again as he always did, and be there in person, but in hindsight I think that he knew that he was telling her that he would do both of those things from above. As I remember the look in his eyes as he spoke, his eyes were resigned, but happy. There was not much fight left. He had already put up the fight of his life after major heart surgeries, diabetes, knee replacement, and having spent the last four years of his life on dialysis. I think he knew his time was finally up, but he was ready and meant that he would be there for her always in spirit.
I told him my wife and I had tickets to see on of our favorite bands, Duran Duran, in concert that night in Atlantic City, and he told me to have fun. I was on the fence as to whether I should still go to the show, but he always told me to live my life and never miss a single opportunity. In the back of my mind I was worried that he wouldn’t be able to fight this time, but I thought we might have days left, not merely hours, or even better, he would fight on to live another day, just as he always had, just like one of his heroes, James Bond. My daughter and I said our goodbyes, not knowing for sure if they would be our final goodbyes, and I went to the concert with my wife.
Four songs into their set, the band played “A View to a Kill”, their theme song from the James Bond movie of the same name. My dad loved James Bond. Some of my earliest movie memories are of my dad and I watching James Bond movies, always with a big-ass bucket of popcorn, pretzels, and Twizzlers. The year that some of my heroes (Duran Duran) created a theme song for one of my dad’s heroes (James Bond) two of our passions intersected in a magical way that gave us something special to talk about every time the song played on the radio when I was with him. I remember hearing that song with him many times in the car, and it always prompted a fun discussion about James Bond, music, or both.
As it turned out, and although the band surely didn’t know it, that night they were playing the song for my dad, right around the time he was moving on. I can’t say for sure that I felt that he was gone in that very moment, but the song hit differently for me that night and I certainly felt a great disturbance in the force, one combined with simultaneous joy and sadness, thinking back about all of the time we spent watching James Bond movies together.
Later in the set, the band played “Ordinary World”, a song about grieving a loss but finding a way to move on, and although I have seen them play this song many times live, it was much more personal for me that night because as the song played I felt that even if my dad might be leaving soon, I would indeed find a way to “make my way to the ordinary world,” and “learn to survive” just as Simon LeBon so beautifully sang in the song.
I would find out from my sister, just hours later and after the show had ended, that my dad had passed right around the time Duran Duran had gone on stage and were a few songs into their set. And so as my dad was leaving this world for the next, I was in Atlantic City, NJ — just minutes away from his childhood home of Brigantine — doing what I promised him I would do: continuing to live my life.
I would like to think that after my dad’s spirit had ascended and he had seen his family for the last time in this world, knowing how much he was loved, he made one last flight over his hometown, looked down, and saw me fulfilling my promise to keep living and “make my way to the ordinary world” and “learn to survive”. We’ll miss you dad, but we know that you’ll always be with us.