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The Death of a Parent

I remember when working toward becoming a mental health counselor, I heard a professor say, “You can only go as deep with a client as you have been yourself. Be grateful for your wounds....”

At the time, of course, I’m never grateful.

Grateful comes later when I’m not trying to understand and survive the loss.

Turns out that professor was right. I still have many opportunities to go deep with others. Retired now, and it remains true.

My husband says, “Do you know how old I am today?”

I know more is coming. I look at him, smile, and wait for it.

“I’m 74 years, 11 months and 15 days old, the exact age as my dad when he died.”


I have no ready answer for that one.

“How does that feel?” I ask.

“Okay. It’s just a fact.”

But then I hear him mention the date again to his sister on the phone. It’s important. He is telling two of us within the same hour.

After dinner, we talk about the memory of A.V. Durmon and his leaving this world. (He died from a brainstem stroke.)

I remember how my husband grieved that next year and how seriously he began to take responsibilities.

He told no one he was counting the days since he turned 74, but he’d been watching the calendar. Strangely, this morning a son called him and asked about his health (which is fine), and he went on to say he is aware of his dad being 74.

His dad reassured him, “Son, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”

Some would call this a coincidence. I call it a God-incident.

To add to the God-incidences, I then came across a poem by Linda Pastan that just blew me away. Yes, it was just there on the next page of the book I’m reading. I read it aloud to him.


Move to the front

of the line

a voice says, and suddenly

there is nobody

left standing between you

and the world, to take

the first blows

on their shoulders.

This is the place in books

where part one ends and

part two begins,

and there is no part three.

The slate is wiped

not clean but like a canvas

painted over in white

so that a whole new landscape

must be started,

bits of the old

still showing underneath—

those colors sadness lends

to a certain hour of evening.

Now the line of light

at the horizon

is the hinge between earth

and heaven, only visible

a few moments

as the sun drops

its rusty padlock

into place.

~ by Linda Pastan

from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998

My husband smiles. It’s confirmation.


Pat Durmon

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Photo of A.V. Durmon from Monticello, Arkansas in 1989, taken by his daughter-in-law Pat Durmon.

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