I haven't cried since that night. I've teared up a couple times, my voice has wavered now and then, I've stood deer-in-the-headlights style at a party waiting for the topic of conversation to move on from cute stories about other people's fathers, but I haven't cried.
That is, until this arrived in the mail:
That's my dad's thumbprint. I took the impression while sitting with him after I could no longer talk with him. Some people take photos or locks of hair, I rolled up balls of purple-and-white putty and gingerly pressed his fingertips into them.
This is it, I thought the whole time. This is IT.
I suppose I'd known before then -- after all, I'd specifically requested the compound be overnighted ahead of our visit, just in case. On the Friday before he passed away I told him about Janessa and the fingerprint jewelry she offered to make for me and my mom, and I felt...weird, like YO I KNOW YOU'RE DYING AND ALL BUT IMMA GONNA MAKE ME A NECKLACE, OKAY?
He didn't think it was weird at all. He thought it sounded like a lovely idea.
Still, though. I left the compound in my suitcase until Saturday, when he was unconscious and we were waiting for an ambulance to arrive to take him to hospice. I did one frantic batch of impressions then, like omg omg fuck shit hurry get it done, and another batch on Sunday, because I was terrified I'd done it wrong in my frazzled state the night before. I was alone in his room then -- I'd sent my mom home to shower and change clothes -- and I repeated the process. Gingerly, quietly, reverently.
This is really, really it. And it's okay.
I don't know which batch Janessa was able to lift this particular print from. Either way, holding it brought the memories of the whole awful, terrifying, precious weekend back in waves, and I sat on the couch and just...sobbed, for the first time.
And you know what? It felt good.
He is gone, but he wasn't always. He was here and I had him, for 33 years, and after that I also had the chance to be there at the end and say goodbye and preserve a tiny reminder of him in silver. For always.
(Thank you again to Janessa for making this charm for me. I don't think there are enough terrabytes on the Internet for me to fully capture how meaningful it is, so instead: Y'ALL GO BUY STUFF FROM JANESSA AND GIVE HER NICE MONEY BECAUSE SHE IS GOOD PEOPLE.)