Oscar Wilde wrote in The Importance of Being Earnest, “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” Well, I have been careless.

My father passed away unexpectedly on Christmas Eve. He was getting ready to go to church to rehearse for the Christmas Eve service. The car was left running as he was gathering his things. And then he was gone. I hope he had no idea what happened to him.

My mother died last July. She’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She stopped eating and, eventually, drinking. We knew at that point the end was near, but it was still a surprise. At least then it wasn’t unanticipated.

The suddenness is what’s haunting me. I wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready. I mean, yes, in the most important sense, he was prepared to meet his Maker, but there was no sense of completion. My mom, it was the end of a journey. For Dad, a derailment.

And so I find myself wondering if anything could have been different. Could it have been avoided? If I hadn’t slept in I could have helped him clear off his car or move some snow (which was neither heavy nor deep). If I’d taken better care of him. Fed him better. If he’d worn a damn hat in the below-freezing weather like I’d tried to get him to do the day before.

I am aware that these are pointless wonderings. Nothing can be changed. And maybe everything could have been different and he would still be gone. It’s probably hubris to take on these guilty thoughts. As if I am in charge of anything, We like to think we have control. We live our lives like we do. And days like Saturday remind me that we don’t.

Tell those who are special to you that you love them. Enjoy what time you have. I know my father loved me. I know he knew I loved him. I made sure to tell him every day. And, really, that’s what is important to me. Everything else may have been left incomplete but, in this, I know I wasn’t careless.

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