My father died of Pancreatic cancer on December 14, 2011. I first published this haibun in Image Curve, on December 18, 2014. What better haibun on transition could I include for dVerse Haibun Monday– transition? I’m also linking this to Real Toads’ Tuesday Platform (imagined by Willow Switches Pat)

The mid-afternoon sun rests along the top of the Ramapo Mountains. The patio shines in a brilliance unobstructed by leafless maple trees. Mira and I sit at the table, taking a rest from the vigil we’ve kept over my father for the past two days. We need fresh air untainted by the stench of human feces and Febreeze. I need a moment away from his incessant, morphine-driven snoring.

But a shout from my mother brings us running back. She stands by Dad’s right side, her back to the fireplace. Dark lines under her eyes from lack of sleep look more prominent in the afternoon light. I take my place by his left. A misunderstanding later, my eight-year-old son stands next to me.

My father takes his last breath: air gurgles out of him as though from a deflating balloon.

I feel nothing. He is so still now. So unlike his graceful floating across the white Italian tile of his restaurant, greeting every one of his customers like they were guests in his own home. So unlike his laying and hammering down the planks of the backyard deck he designed and built. So unlike him.

“Is he gone?”

My numbness shatters. In a whisper, through sudden, silent sobs, I answer my son.


December sunset
an empty hospice bed
an empty room


Photograph by Ryan McGuire


19 replies »

  1. The loss of pain, of a loved on, can be so surreal, especially in the days, and hours leading up to it. And I think you’ve captured that feeling here, – the sense of dislocation, almost like a disassociation as witness, as son to father, as father to your own child, son – and yet, this haibun/poem is sensitive and very graceful for it. And the repetition, as noted by Frank, really does speak volumes – about how things can and do shift and change when sickness is long and lingering, from the slow robbing to the final notes. The careful choice of words really is a fine tribute and gift, in some ways, to both your father and yourself (I suspect that sounds a bit weird) – but this is a very deeply moving and stirring expression of love and loss.

    I’m sorry for your loss and grief, and I do hope that this writing, and time, have offered you some comfort and peace Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kaykuala

    Most moving account Frank, very open and very real, awesome! To take a story affecting oneself on a personal basis can be a real test of sincerity.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is heart touching in its rendering — the experience is moving in its light and brings to surface the emotions in a loving manner. The account of a personal grief can be so difficult; yours is beautiful.
    The “December sunset” captures the hues and the emptiness left behind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this moving haibun, Frank. The sun does set when a parent dies. I can feel the grief and the emptiness of the room, as your father is no longer there.
    My sisters and I sat an all night vigil over my father as he was in the hospital, and he died in the morning. It’s been many years, but I still remember.

    Liked by 1 person

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