Never Too Late

from Kristy Hassler-Hecht

My mother became a widow just after she turned twenty-five. She was left alone with three small children, my youngest brother still in diapers. Almost a year later she met Wally, who was also twenty-five. Always the romantic, he chose New Year’s Eve to propose, and just after Valentine’s Day for the wedding.

Wally never knew his biological father. His mother, just a teenager at the time, was coerced into a marriage which she left soon after Wally was born. His mother remarried, but her husband and son never got along. At seventeen, Wally struck out on his own.

He was determined to give us what he never had: a loving father. Even after my sister was born a few years later, Wally never made any distinction among the four of us. He was our dad; there was no stepfather in our home. Even my mother said, “He didn’t marry me; he married us.”

At the time he was managing a Chevron Gas station in San Francisco. It was typical of his generous, big-hearted nature that he would take on so much responsibility with such modest means. His talents were soon recognized and he received many promotions, eventually finding his ideal job as vice-president in charge of the company’s philanthropy in Los Angeles.

My mother was religious by nature; and from a young age I, too, was devoted to God. Dad never talked to either of us about spirituality, but neither did he criticize or interfere. He was a happy agnostic who never felt the need, until his last year, to explore the spiritual side of life.

In late October 2001, at the relatively young age of sixty-five, Dad was told he had pancreatic cancer and only a few months to live. At the Thanksgiving table that year he thanked each one of us for sharing not only his life, but now also his death.

At one point during that holiday I saw my mother and father walking together hand in hand, admiring a tall pine tree covered with Christmas lights.

“Dear Divine Mother,” I prayed. “She needs more time. We all need more time. Let my father live at least one more year so we can say a proper good-bye. And, if possible, awaken him to Your presence.”

His changed circumstances made him spiritually receptive. I gave him several books that were important to me, including one, with a video, about how to meditate. He read them all, and watched the video many times.

Every night now, before he went to sleep, he practiced meditation. As the months passed he grew softer and sweeter, with a light in his eyes I had never seen before. We began to pray with him, and he didn’t object. He let his Mormon and Catholic friends bless him and, when the time came, accepted last rites.

Just over a year after I had asked Divine Mother to extend his life, it was obvious the end was near. When the hospice worker came, Dad talked to him for an hour about his wonderful, and as he now called it, blessed life.

When my brother wept at the sight of my father’s now emaciated frame, Dad comforted him. “It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the love we share.”

In the last week, when he could no longer get out of bed, my brother-in-law asked him, “What do you think about as you lie there?”

“Succeeding,” Dad said.

He was referring to his death. That he would die soon was self-evident. It was a question only of how calm, courageous, and uplifted he would be when the time came. My father knew that the same techniques he used to transcend the body when he meditated would also help him transition out of the body altogether.

From then on I noticed that Dad’s eyes were often uplifted and focused on the spiritual eye at the point between the eyebrows, the way we do when we meditate.

In the last hours his eyes were open, unblinking, raised, and slightly rolled back, riveted now on the spiritual eye. When it came time for his last breath, I was sitting next to him with my hand on his forehead, praying, “Divine Mother, take him into the Light.”

He departed calmly, his eyes fixed at the spiritual eye.

As a last good-bye, two tears fell from his eyes, which my mother caught in a handkerchief. “Oh, my darling husband,” she said.