The Final Farewell by
(281 Stories)

Prompted By Regrets

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I’m a guilt prone woman but as my psychiatrist husband explained, regret is not the same thing. I can regret things about which I had no choice. Not being there when my father died is an example of the latter. I couldn’t have gotten to his nursing home in time, but I will always regret not being there.

I wish I had been able to be with him to tell him I loved him and hold his hand. I will always regret not being there for that final farewell.

The last time I saw my father was June 24, 2012. We had traveled to the Detroit area for a bridal shower for one of my nieces. It was for the first of two weddings for his granddaughters that he hoped to attend, but it was pretty clear that this would not be in the cards for him. His journey from failed back surgery and a heart attack to rehab to a nursing home had been long and painful. He tried his best to enjoy the visit from us, one of our daughters and her husband, and his three oldest great grandchildren. As the visit went on, I could see his strength waning, resulting in the featured photo, which was the last picture I took with him.

He tried to be cheerful

A last kiss

Goodbye, Zeyde

We returned to our home in Evanston, Illinois and eleven days later my brothers called to tell me he had died. I know there was no way I could have known July 5 would be his last day, but my mother and brothers lived close enough to get there in time to say goodbye when the nursing home called. I wish I had been able to be with him to tell him I loved him and hold his hand. I will always regret not being there for that final farewell.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    This is touching and I understand entirely, Laurie. Thank you to your husband for spelling out the difference between guilt and regret. My father died, alone, in a hospital in California, while I was in Newton and my brother, who lives in Cincinnati, was at a conference in Dallas. It is sad that we can’t be with those we love at the very end and you have expressed your regret beautifully.

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    I’m sure you wish you could have been there at the last moment, but sometimes it is even better to have been there when the person is feeling a bit better and can fully appreciate your presence—and clearly he felt your love. The pictures are lovely too. Peace be to all.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Khati. My father would have agreed. I remember him telling my son, who called him to say he was sorry he would be missing a family event, “Don’t come for my funeral. Come when I can enjoy seeing you.” At the time, I thought it was the ultimate guilt trip, but it turned out to be true.

  3. Suzy says:

    Very touching, Laurie. I had the same experience when my mother died – I had been with her in Florida a week earlier, had left, and then considered going back when it was clear she was dying, but my sisters said it was already too late for her to know whether I was there or not. Still, I regret it. Glad you have those wonderful photos of the last visit.

  4. Marian says:

    Sending you hugs, Laurie. This is always such a difficult situation, even though you fortunately were able to spend some time with your dad a couple of weeks before he died. I was with my dad in hospice late one evening in December, left about 10 PM to do the hour drive home, and received a call at 4 AM the next morning that he’d died. I still feel regret that somehow I hadn’t stayed, even though it was a matter of hours.

  5. Of course you may feel regretful Laurie, you surely knew that HE knew how much you loved him!

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Very moving, Laurie. And, yes, good for your husband for distinguishing between guilt and regret. And I am glad that you have these touching last pictures of him. And, I am sure, a host of warm memories forever.

  7. I have the guilt thing, too, Laurie. My mother honed it to a fine point. She was fond of saying, “There’s nothing wrong with a little guilt.” Thanks, Mom.

    I’m so glad you that you have, and have included, those photos. Thank goodness you got to spend time with him then!

  8. Susan Bennet says:

    Marian’s was my experience, Laurie. I believe a healthy way to relieve this type of guilt is to consider that our parents and loved ones would not want us to feel the distress that can accompany end-of-life moments. From the look on his face, you clearly brought your father joy in life, and regrets should have no place in your memory.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Susan. I don’t really feel guilty about it because there was no way to be there. And generally I don’t dwell on it. But it is hard to be the one family member who does not live near everyone else.

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