My Father’s Beautiful Death

Hospice care gave him a dignified transition. I wish more black people knew about this option.

Madison Gray Sr. in 2010 (Courtesy of Madison Gray)
Madison Gray Sr. in 2010 (Courtesy of Madison Gray)

(The Root) — This is a story that begins with an end.

To be specific, it is about the end of a life that was very special to me. A life that taught me many things, lessons that I’m still learning as I evolve. A life that could have only been lived by one person. A life that was given the dignity of the kind of termination for which we all eventually wish.

This is a story about my father’s beautiful death.

To keep it 100 percent real, Madison Gray Sr. and I were buddies, but our relationship was not without its tests.

I didn’t always get along with my dad. I got into more than my fair share of trouble when I was younger, we rarely saw eye to eye on any number of topics and there was a great enough age gap between us (I was a late-in-life baby for him) that we sometimes seemed to be speaking a foreign language to each other.

But there was no doubt of my father’s love for me, nor of mine for him.

There could be no better example than in June, when I came home to visit and went to his hospital bedside. He was tired, his mind was mostly gone and he spent most of his time asleep. His condition worsened as his always-youthful body began to realize, decades late, that he was well into his old age and that it was finally time for him to rest.

I walked into the hospital room and he immediately opened his eyes. Then he opened my eyes.

“Joey!” he shouted, his lungs seemingly having lost none of the strength he’d had in the years of having to get on my case for various reasons.

He was surprised to see me, since I had not been in town since Christmastime, and his glee brought a smile to my mother’s face. It was the first time in months he had been so alert. I tried to speak to him and have a conversation, and he tried to keep up as much lucidity as possible to do the same.