Susanne Severeid: Meditation on “A Completed Life” upon the Death of Her Father
A Completed Life
Copyright July, 2021
My father died a few weeks ago. He was 95 years old. An intelligent, professional man, he kept his marbles till the end. When I telephoned him just three short weeks before he died, we had a full conversation. In the past few years, I have been aware of, and grateful for, how fortunate I was to be able to call my parents (my mother is now 92) and to still get them on the phone. Not just hear their voice, but to speak with them in the way I have always known them.
When I visited at length with my father last November, we sat on the worn plaid sofa in his living room and we talked of past family vacations and camping trips. His memory was sharp. I showed him some pictures on my iphone, and by his comments on details in the photos it was obvious that he could see them clearly. He didn’t need reading glasses, and only wore the same glasses he’d worn his entire life. In his later years, he developed severe hearing loss (VA-provided hearing aids only helped some), but other than that, Dad had no underlying health conditions. According to his doctor, “He is just very, very old.”
As I write this, I reflect on his full life, and I can say with a sense of real comfort that his was, at 95, a completed life. The eldest of four brothers, Dad was the last one standing by more than a decade. Decorated for naval service in World War II, upon his return home he and his young bride (our mother) loaded up their few belongings in their car and hit Route 66, leaving Iowa far behind. They reached the Golden Gate Bridge and both of them would spend the rest of their lives in California. At that time, it truly was the Golden State in which to raise a young family, soon to come along. Dad was transferred to Southern California, and my brother and I grew up surrounded by orange groves, uncrowded beaches, rolling hills covered in California poppies, good schools, Disneyland, Hollywood, and opportunities galore. What a different place it was back then. When I visit Southern California now, I am stunned by the snarled traffic, insane drivers, the extreme crowding, and by the mish-mosh of monied entitlement and desperate homeless encampments. I was often in Santa Monica and recall when it was a sleepy retirement town with an abundance of inexpensive bungalow-style homes walking distance to the beach, low-key restaurants, and—for those who will remember this reference with a smile—Henshey’s (1925-1992), a department store which still had a gift-wrapping counter, a hat and bridal section, and an elevator operator!
But this is about my father. As much as I can say, in all truth, that it was his time to leave this earthly plane and, in his words, “let God take me,” I am also keenly aware of how my heart feels. There is a pain that there is no salve for, and I am realizing how much I will miss him. He was, simply put, always there. Always a part of my life. There was a steadfastness about him in his love for my brother and me in these later years that was a strength and comfort to us as we went through some very tough times in our adult lives, including—for both of us – the deaths of our spouse/partner. Dad was there for us.
I remember calling Dad several years ago about a legal matter on which I needed some sage advice. We spoke for over an hour on the phone. He listened while I laid everything on the table, including my confusion and doubts about what to do. He then calmly dissected the facts and information in a way that I could make sense of it and come to the right decision. He had an incisive mind, and he wanted to be there for my brother and me when life gave us some hard knocks.
I will miss just knowing that he is there, ready to pick up the phone and happy to hear my voice. I will miss reflecting on and reminiscing about our family history together, and what it meant to be his daughter. I will miss his love.
Most of all, I will just miss him.