family life

Dancing with Dad: an Anniversary Post

The day is February 28, 1998.

My dad stands tall and proud, grinning in his tuxedo with polished cowboy boots. Since boots are made for jeans, he says he hopes they don’t make noise swishing in his tuxedo pants as we walk down the aisle. I show him my own boots hidden under my wedding dress and he laughs. I tell him I’m sure I’ll swish more than he will.

After the ceremony, I find him crying; his baby girl is a married woman now and his emotions overflow.

Later, he takes my hand and we dance to the song he chose for our father-daughter dance: Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.”

father daughter wedding dance

The day is February 28, 2013

It’s exactly fifteen years since that day we danced at my wedding.

This day, I am the one to shed tears, although most of them have already been shed since I knew what was coming. Over the past couple of years, ALS has gradually weakened my father, taking away his ability to stand tall and proud, even affecting that contagious grin of his. His neck muscles weakened so much that he often had to use his hands to hold up his head.

Though my first marriage later unraveled, that day fifteen years earlier was a joyful one. This day is not.

I take his hand, and instead of dancing, I sit and listen to him struggle for breath. ALS has weakened his respiratory muscles, allowing his lungs to fill with fluid. I am grateful sedation keeps him from feeling the pain and panic that would accompany this if he were coherent.

I hold his hand, and I tell him, “It’s okay to go.

I’m still holding his hand as his labored breathing stops. I say a prayer of thanks that his suffering is over. And I wonder how long it takes a soul to fly to heaven, and how long until he’s dancing again.

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