I got to be with my dad from midnight on Wednesday until Sunday morning.
I expect to be writing more about this at some indefinite-future time, but for now the details are this:
Thanks to everybody’s donations, I got to be there with him for 3 days and a little bit more, and I was with him when he died. He knew I was there, responded to my voice, and seemed to be comforted by my touching and talking.
I told him what a good man he was, and what a hole there would be in the world when he left:
I love you, Old Man. You’re not alone. I’m right here with you.
I was so lucky to meet you, to have you in my life. There just aren’t words for what you mean to me. You’ll be in my head every day for the rest of my life, and I’ll do my best to be somebody you’d be proud of.
The world has been a better place for having you in it. I guarantee you every person who ever went on a wilderness trip with you remembers it to this day, and it’s one of their best memories, and the reason for that is just you. There are so many people who love you, who respect you for the man you are, who envy you the life you’ve led.
All the work is done, and you did a fantastic job. The horses are back in the corral, the mules are fed, the gear’s all put away. If you want to rest now, it’s okay. I’ll be right here with you for the whole trip.
I was with him on Sunday morning, running a cool wet cloth over his forehead and talking to him quietly, when his eyes opened. I went down to the nursing station to ask a question, and when I came back I sat and put my hand on his warm forehead.
At 9:45 a.m., his labored breathing changed, became suddenly softer and slower. He sighed through five more breaths, and then stopped. I could see the pulse still beating in his throat, but after a minute that too stopped. The nurse came in and I choked out “I think he just died.”
Daniel Franklin Farris: Sunburnt mountain man, mule packer, High Sierra wilderness guide, horseman and hunter, teacher and coach, backcountry cook, unmatched teller of campfire tales, protector and defender, friend to dogs and horses, sometime cowboy poet, legendary bare-knuckled bar fighter, irrepressible lover of women.
There will never be another like him.
Anybody who wants to check the details of the story, my Dad’s name was Dan Farris. He was in Room 11 of Northern Inyo Hospital, Bishop California. His attending physician was Dr. Boo … and I’d bet good money Dan made at least one joke about that, considering it was Halloween, or close to it, when he was admitted.
The hospital staff were nothing short of fantastic. They took great care of Dan, checking on him frequently and keeping him comfortable. They made a big fuss about the fact of my long-distance visit. Everybody had been told to expect me, and I must have been asked a half-dozen times “Are you ‘New York’?”
They completely ignored visiting hours, letting me show up at 5 a.m. and stay until after midnight, they offered trays from the cafeteria at breakfast, lunch and dinner, they told me what a good friend I was for traveling this long way, they listened to my stories about Dan the mule packer, wilderness guide and good friend, they kindly pretended not to notice my erratic tears, and there were even a few hugs.