My Father’s Death by Miriam Sagan

My Father’s Death

My father Eli died last week. He was almost 88 years and had suffered a series of strokes, both small and major. He was in hospice, and refused food, water, and medication. It took him about eight days to die. He was a tough guy who spent most of his life in New Jersey.
I am a writer. He was my father. I don’t want to eulogize him, because I don’t feel that as an obligation and eulogy is not totally honest. I don’t want to paint his portrait—although it would be a complex.
But I do want to write about him.

What interests me is how his death will affect my writing. Will I be more honest, confessional, direct? Will I write about different things now that I no longer feel his eye upon me? Or will I be less driven? Granted, that eye was more metaphor than real—and I never shared everything I wrote, not even my published books.

When he was dying, I wrote two long lists.One was everything I liked about him—one was negative. The lists were of equal length. A smart friend of mine said she thought that was pretty good! Until then, it hand’t occurred to me to realize I might have perceived more faults than virtues.

I want to write about my father. Or, write whatever pleases me in the space of his absence.


24 thoughts on “My Father’s Death by Miriam Sagan

  1. It sounds like your father lived and died like he wanted to. I can see your dilemma. I suppose if it was me I would write when I’m ready. If it isn’t ready yet in your head, meaning you can’t visualize the path you want to take writing about him, then maybe do something else that pleases you but give yourself time to really think it over, compare your lists and consider how you will proceed.

    Another thing that sometimes helps me in something that is hard to write is to work on a bit every day. It’s less pressure and more time to contemplate and plan.

    Take care, I am sorry for your loss even though he was very old, it is still a loss isn’t it? I wish you well.

  2. Thank you–that is very thoughtful advice, and appreciated. I tend to react quickly to things, but in this case although he was ill for a long time I think some process is just starting.

  3. Sorry for your loss Miriam. I experienced an opening in my writing when my mother died. After I wrote the story that I wanted (fiction) about her death and some of her life, I began being more honest in my poetry. My family figures in a lot of it, but I also find myself being more truthful in whatever the subject matter, probably because, as you stated, the eye is no longer upon me.

  4. Stella–I can understand this. Thank you for weighing in. I used to tell myself to write as if I had no family, and maybe that partially worked. But reality is stronger than a mental trick.

  5. Step by you allow yourself to really feel…the grief, relief,pain,love anger,dissapointment..whatever you feel most deeply, as you open up,healing comes as will your words…I am sorry for your loss

  6. Time will reveal. My younger brother died way too young, in 1993, in a violent way. I still don’t write about it, but I think about him a lot. You may never write about your father, not in a drect way. I have seen a lot of death as a nurse, and I have written, in a generic way, to preserve confidentiality, about some of my patient’s deaths. Don’t try to force it, and don’t worry about it.

    • Very interesting, what you have to say. I wrote a lot about my first husband’s death–that was a kind of “no way out but through” experience. At 60, I feel remiss that I’ve never truly addressed my family in my writing, but I didn’t want to do that “wow crazy immigrant family” thing. You are so right–I’m waiting, with curiosity.

  7. I’m so sorry about your Father! But I believe that all things that are important make their way out in their time and mutate in whatever interesting form they desire. And I LOVE Miriam Sagan and her work and know that they may be out on posts across the desert! xoxo

  8. i remember writing a eulogy for my father’s, what a prefer to think of as seeing him off. years later, the poem HOW TO BURY A FATHER came forth. when i was ready. when the time was right.
    i remember something about cannot push forward or hold back the river. in it’s own time.

  9. So sorry for your loss, Miriam. I just lost my beloved nephew, age 44, twelve days ago and have not been able to write about it, but I have been recording things I remember about him on my i-phone and then transcribing those memories–seems easier, somehow. I know that grief can be a window to many realizations and changes, but right now I just have the flu. As they say in Alanon, “More will be revealed….”

  10. Dear Miriam, Baruch Dayan Emet. Condolences. I am thankful for your words as I read them beside my 88 year old father’s bed. We are five days along on a journey. I want the whole world to know what a great man he was. The hard stuff, the bad stuff belongs to me and I, too, am curious to know how losing him will affect what has been a life-long subject of my writing.

  11. Dear Miriam, we have met, here and there in Santa Fe. My cousin is Julia Goldberg. I am so sorry to hear about your father. I lost my mother to bone cancer May 1, 2012 and was in personal crisis during this time. I felt such a loss of myself because, good or bad (and there were many bad days with my mother), she was always in the world. During this period I was unable to work in my studio ( I am a mixed-media artist) or think logically as I anticipated r the phone call that would alert me to my mothers death. From February 2012-Fall 2013, I found myself creating a visual blog depicting life here in the East Mts, vignettes about small incidents, and thoughts about art and other things. I only wrote when I felt an “inkling” or had photos that spoke to my heart. At the beginning I wrote often. My blog was and is called “Abbakiss and the Artist”, named after my youngest goat. The birth of the blog came about one day in early Jan 2012 when I was outside my home in the East Mountains with little will or thought when the tiny germ of an action came to me to get my camera.. I began to snap images of shadows, my animals in the barnyard, odd phenomena, the plastic duck in the garden, and anything that caught my eye, (not necessarily with intention, feeling rather comatose). Then I went to my computer and began to develop layered imagery, rather like painting. Abbakiss became my first idea because he came to me as a vision in my head when one of my other goats was dying the summer before. I directed myself to call a dairy farm Belen after my Choco died. A month old baby boy had been born and the owner did not know what to do with him and a month later he came home with me. Anyway, I believe Abbakiss came to me to help me with my mother and motivated me to “grab” images and write. When my mother died I was able to write about her on my blog May 9th, 2012. I was only able to do this because I tend to have a long shock period. Please do not worry about writing. I could not paint or create my art and found my way through writing and a different kind of imagery. But first I just had to wonder through the world. Below is the blog about my mother. If this might be helpful take a look. Take good care. Diane

  12. Thank you–it sounds like a fascinating process. I appreciate the link. I’m not aiming right now to write about y father’s death too much, or even that much about him–but more what lies under or relationship. Maybe I’ll feel freer. The kind of slantwise process–which it sounds like you had too–is useful to me.
    On another note–I love goats, and have always wanted one–so I’m inspired by yours.

  13. I am sorry you have lost your father. My dad died while I was in my 40s and mothering a young child. It was my first profound loss. It has taken me years to write poems about him, he came to me slowly over time, that is, his gestures, his words. In the end you will feel joyful writing about your dad I am sure. My mother died at 89 last year. There are moments I miss her, but mostly, it was pretty simple to let her go after a long life and our tempestuous relationship. I still miss dad all these years later. There are so many things I’d love to tell him. That’s another entry to writing about him.

  14. Oh, Miriam, I am just seeing this now and am so very sad to learn (belatedly) of your dad’s passing. Unlike you, never having lived with him and only having spent short periods of time with him when you and I were hanging out together, I have only fond memories of your dad, and very deeply positive ones at that. Like all humans, he surely had his flaws, but from this outsider/then-child’s eyes, he was a pretty remarkable person. His insatiable curiosity about the world (past and present) inspired me early on, when I decided to become an anthropologist, in ways I’ve never acknowledged publicly. As you assimilate his passing, I’m sure you’ll find new insights into his choices (good and bad). For now, please know that I am sending loving thoughts your way. Alma

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