The night before my father died, I was watching the San Francisco Opera’s remarkable version of Porgy and Bess, starring Eric Owens. My father was very restless that evening. I was angry with him. I’d spend hours fixing something I hoped he would eat. Even my mother ate it. After we finished eating, I was in a hurry to do the dishes and go watch the opera. My father wanted to pray. I was being snippy. I sat down and did nothing but say, “Thank you, Lord, for opera.” My father put me to shame. “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” Those were the last coherent words he ever spoke. He lived his life just that way, following Jesus.
When you are dealing with Stage Six, Alzheimer’s, it is like dealing with a small child. My mother wanted to watch the opera, which, over the years, we had come to discover was one of my father’s favorite pieces of music. He loved Gershwin. I had hoped we could get him calm, and he might listen, but he finally fell asleep. My mother finished watching it with me. Maybe two hours after it was over, he started hemorrhaging. We waited until early morning, then called EMS, who transported him to the local hospital. A good fifteen years, earlier, he had experienced a bleeding ulcer, which had returned. They were so kind to us there at the hospital. They made him comfortable. Fr. Penn did the last rites. My father went home to be with his Lord doing his very favorite thing – napping.
Finally… the best for last. Let’s be honest. There is only one REAL version!
A week from today my father would be 93. Summertime was one of his favorite songs. For those of us who are hooked on the opera, I believe the Met is going to be doing it, this next season.