At our little informal gathering,
we sat there in Dad's living room and shared
thoughts and stories in a simple way. Whoever wanted to say
something, just did so. My brother Jim told the most recent one, that
of my father's last words.
Dad had been preparing a meal
for those of the Shasta 'collective' (my sister & family, my brother
and wife, a couple of visiting grandkids etc. .) who were coming to
his place for dinner on the day he started to go down. He liked to make
his own enchiladas. He was very good about feeding everyone. And very
particular about how he wanted things done.
That morning he had been out
for a drive somewhere with the visiting grandkids. He had started a
batch of enchiladas before leaving and was going to finish them off
later that afternoon. He never got the chance. With a big headache and
feeling really sick, he made it back home to have a rest. My brother
Jim showed up about the same time to find that he was getting bad and
they headed off to the hospital.
Once there, surrounded by the
available family members, he slipped in and out of lucidity as he struggled
with the stress of his cerebral hemorrhaging.
Between moans of pain and retching,
he managed to call out, mostly to his granddaughter Kelly who was one
of those at his bedside: ". . You have to put them in at 350 for
thirty minutes!". . . More groans and retching, then, coming back
up through the delirium: ". . And you take off the tent after twenty
minutes!". . Goes down again with the stress of it all and comes
back again with:
". . And don't forget the cheese on top!" . . . then:
". . AND DON'T FORGET TO HEAT THE SAUCE! . . .
THE EXTRA SAUCE! . ."
And that was it, he didn't come back up out of his last struggle.
Amazing. . . Who knows what
it will be for any of us, those last thoughts that are foremost in our
minds, just as we are leaving. For my father, it was that he wanted
to ensure that his last effort at keeping the clan fed was done properly.
What an amazing guy.
A day or so later, they eventually
ate the enchilada dinner (following the directions, of course). Knowing
I was going to soon be there, they saved one for me. It became known
as 'The Last Enchilada', the phrase becoming a sort catch cry for that
special time. Upon my arrival, I did eat The Last Enchilada. It was
February 5, 2004