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33 Years

At the 33rd anniversary of my dad's death, I happened to be a ten minute drive away from the hospital where he died, and circumstances allowed me to pay a visit.

Dad spent about 3 weeks at Stanford Hospital, sedated and hooked up to a ventilator. After he died, I felt like hospitals and death were synonymous. It wasn't until my kids were born that I really went back to a hospital. I certainly never had thought before of going back to the hospital where he died.

Then, there I was on vacation with the kids, suddenly just a short drive away, just a few days after the death anniversary. It was time to go back for a spontaneous memorial trip.

As we approached, I wondered if there were some kind of memorial or tribute to all the people who have died in this hospital. I was surprised to see the fountain and large water feature surrounded by a blooming flower garden.

I realize it's not good PR for a hospital to offer a memorial or reminder of how many people come to the hospital to die, and it wouldn't be likely to provide much solace. Yet it was dawning on me, the importance of remembering the place where our loved ones die, when possible, and more often than not dying happens in a hospital.

Dad's wish was to have his ashes dispersed in the Kalalau Valley, in Kauai, where he and Mom spent their 20th wedding anniversary. So we didn't have a place to really take our grief for a visit. (The experience of releasing his ashes was an unforgettable experience of humor and grief mixed together.)

It turned out to be a nice afternoon. My youngest daughter and I collected flowers, and floated them into the water. We offered loving phrases with gratitude to Dad and the universe. It felt connective for both of us. I used to fear that hospital and finally, I found peace and comfort and a certain grounding in the space. I look forward to returning again, when Covid is a distant memory, so that I can enter the building and explore what that feels like.

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