The Lasts


This past weekend I saw my father for the last time.  Pancreatic cancer has ravaged his body so fiercely and fast that in the two months since I last saw him, he has become a mere shadow of himself, his body just a vessel for his failing organs and his weakening voice.

I saw my father reclining for the last time on a chaise in his glorious backyard as he listened to the birds and watched the sun go down.  I saw him sitting upright in his spot on the couch in the downstairs of his house, for the last time.  Noone had any clue that when he shuffled up the carpeted stairs with the help of a walker and a caregiver, that unless someone carried him, he would probably never make it back down.

For two days I held my father’s hand, his grip still remarkably strong and watched him go in and out, as he smiled at me every once in a while and went back to sleep.  I cheered him on as he struggled to sip orange juice through a bendy straw and dabbed at the places where I carelessly splashed his face in the process.

It was the last time I will be able to fulfill his sudden craving for “three bottles of Dr. Brown’s Cel-ray soda,” a long-time favorite of his from his deli days in New York.

It was the last time I will walk through the wrought iron gate of his Los Angeles home of 30 years and step into his tranquil courtyard with gorgeous statues and water features and have to brace myself for what I would find when I went inside.

It was the last time he will recommend a book to me and ask me to take whatever I wanted from his overflowing shelves.  It was the last time he will point weakly at a leather box sitting on his desk and tell me to open it.  Inside was every picture of my daughter that I have ever sent him, dates written in his familiar hand, as he has always done with all of his pictures.  It was the last time I will gasp and weep openly at something so striking and beautiful.

There will be no more packages of books from Amazon addressed to my daughter, books picked by him from the young adult section of the New York Times Book Review.  There will be no more articles cut from newspapers addressed to me on topics that he knows I’d be interested in.

It was the last time I will kiss him on the lips and hug his body, a body once so strong and robust, accompanied by a booming voice, now weakened to a whisper that hurts when he has to use it.

He is hanging on, buoyed by his love of caramel Frappucinos and the fierce love of his wife and family.  Soon, there will be a last phone conversation, a last “I love you.”



  1. George Kindel

    Beautifully expressed… thank you for sharing.

  2. Oh Gayle, this is beautiful and heartbreaking. Those “Lasts” mean so much.

  3. Still sobbing after reading your beautiful story & wishing I could have had that last goodbye with my Dad. We must accept death and seek the comfort of great memories, sweet gestures & unconditional love!
    You can still have a relationship with your Dad after passing…. just a different kind. Holding you close in my thoughts & prayers. 💔

  4. For this was the word “poignant” invented. So hard to say goodbye, but you expressed it beautifully. Hugs, Gretchen

  5. MaryKate

    It’s difficult to witness my parents aging. Thank you for sharing your sensitive and insightful memories and story of your Dad.

  6. Ruben Howard

    my heart breaks for you, Gayle, under the soft blows of your words. by the time we’re orphaned, hopefully, we’ve forgiven them and ourselves, and realized that every shared moment has always ever been “the last time”.

  7. mcphotowhiz

    I know hard it was for you to fly out to California to say goodbye. So glad you did. And you will gasp and weep openly again at something beautiful, because there will be something to remind you of that moment when you opened the box of photos. I can guarantee that. Hugs for you and Amelia.

  8. Sally Cohen-Alameno

    Absolutely beautiful.

  9. Very beautiful piece. As always your honesty and courage to look at Life head on adds to the power of your words

  10. Maddy Heintz

    I remember so well how it feels to be where you are. My thoughts, and Nick’s are with you.

  11. Karen Riveles Carrera

    Thank you for sharing. Praying for your comfort and peace as well as your mom’s and daughter’s and the family.

  12. This was beautifully written. I lost my dad last May and it seems that all I can think about are all the “lasts”. I am thankful for those, however, because of the many times I cam close to giving up on our relationship. Thank you for writing this.

    1. Thank you so much, Jane. Unfortunately I know that I will be watching my friends go through this very soon. We’re at that age where it is already happening. Do I know you or did you stumble upon me in some other way? Just wondering, and thanks again.

  13. No ma’am. I actually found you’re blog a couple of years ago after a colonoscopy gone wrong. Lol. I was googling this ‘disaster of epic proportion’ and found your blog. I have not laughed like that in a long time. :0)

    1. That’s awesome! That was indeed funny. I haven’t been funny lately but I will be again, promise!

      1. Oh, I do hope so! You definitely nailed it. I didn’t feel quite so bad after reading that. ;0)

  14. I didn’t realize he had pancreatic cancer — the same one that claimed both my parents. Thank you for writing and sharing this. It’s a lovely piece of writing and is successful in its message of love and loss. Miss you, Gaylie.

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