James Anthony Ellis
I was there when my father passed on March 15.
It was at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California.
I bolted up there from San Diego when I got the news that his health took a turn for the worse and was in a state of decline.
Being present while he took his last breath was a surreal experience, one I will never forget. A story for another time.
After he passed, I sat in the room for about an hour. I was surprised the nurses allowed me to remain for as long as I wished. “Take as much time as you need,” they said.
I spoke to the spirit beyond the body.
Various thoughts came to mind. Some memories, some philosophical ideas, and then towards the end of my stay, one lingering concern.
I suddenly had the thought: did I thank my father for all that he did for me?
It wasn’t a strong regret or an intense fear. I just had this nagging curiosity. Did I take the time to thank my father directly so that he received my gratitude? Did he get it? He didn’t really acknowledge much of my expression throughout the years. There were no big indications that what I had said or wrote over the years were taken in.
Oh sure there were times of my fleeting “thanks” for this and that. But did I really make it clear – all he did for me, all the support he gave me in my drive to be the man I wanted to be?
I drove off from that hospital and went straight to the Huntington Beach home in which he lived for 60 years, the home in which I grew up. On the drive, I again had that nagging thought – did I thank my father directly?
I drove up the neighborhood street and pulled into the driveway. My sister and brother-in-law were already there.
As a family, we would be taking our time over the next few weeks in clearing out the home of sentimental items and keepsakes.
For now though, for this brief period of time, I thought it to be a good idea to simply sift through a pile of papers or two in the dining room. Not really sure why.
I would soon find out. It didn’t take long.
The curious thoughts I had pondered would come back to me … in an answer in an unexpected place.
It was a piece of paper folded up, with the words “Daddyo” on it. This paper was found pretty much on top of the pile of papers. I unfolded the piece of paper and found at the top the words “Dad … Thanks.”
This was a special sentiment I had handwritten some eight years previous.
Of all the piles of papers and files and folders he stored in each room of his house, this would be the one paper I would find. No other personal sentiments would be found left out in the open, throughout all the various rooms of the house.
This one was found. It held a special meaning to me – an answer to an inquiry. A curiosity quenched. A realization that I did indeed thank this great man.
And just possibly an indication that he truly received my gratitude.