Michele Fried, Adoption STAR Founder & CEO writes about the passing of her father Rabbi Joesph A. Poisson and his legacy in celebration of Father’s Day.
Sometimes I write because it is healing. I wrote something I called, Saying Goodbye, close to six months after my father passed away. Now that father’s day is here, I thought I remember my father fondly and share this article with you.
It will be six months since my father died. I can’t believe it has been that long already. Working in a field that deals with grief and loss I am no stranger to the stages of grief. I understand the importance of allowing oneself the time to heal. As this has been my first experience dealing with the loss of a parent, one that provided only three months from devastating diagnosis to a funeral, there was little time to contemplate how to say goodbye. Instead I found myself wrapped in lightening speed trips to and from my parent’s home in Florida, to and from doctor appointments, to and from Internet sites about pancreatic cancer.
Days and nights blended together as a last minute 80th birthday party was planned, by far the best decision we all made. Phone calls with my siblings were long discussions of the unknowns, the what-ifs, the speculations, the asking why there was no end of life planning by parents already in their seventies.
None of us would have ever guessed he would leave us so quickly. Those unfair life expectancy time periods provided gave us glimpses of hope for 6 to 12 more months. Despite the rapidness of the disease’s progression, those three months provided quality moments. We all took advantage of family time and alone time with our father. One of my favorite final memories was on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, where my parents would have otherwise been in synagogue, the three of us sat in their living room on the large comfortable sofa with our books. Committed to not turning on the television during this Holy day, we just read. Once in awhile we broke the silence and spoke of non-important issues, about the books we were reading and even had a conversation about being angry at cancer not angry at everything else. It was a calm day. It was a promising day. I remember thinking that this might be the last visit I have with my father and I simply thought, “What a wonderful visit it has been.”
When the phone calls on October 9th became more and more frightening there was a decision to be made, should my three siblings and I coming from all directions of the globe immediately fly to Florida? Could this be it? My sister flew in immediately and I could have joined her. But something stopped me. I chose to take the first flight the very next morning and would meet my brother mid-way while we continued to Florida together
We packed for at least a week, somehow all imagining ourselves in a hospital room for days waiting… wondering. But someplace inside me I knew I was making a decision that if this could be it, I would miss his passing. I did. Just by a couple of hours. He was in great pain, not just physically but emotionally. In fact I am told that he said so himself just hours before the end. He didn’t want to go and that is hard to deal with. No Hollywood movie ending.
Many people feel bad that I wasn’t there to say goodbye. But you see I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
My father taught me the importance of family, education, and the importance of valuing and including individuals with developmental disabilities. As early as the 1970’s he championed for the rights of children with special needs to have a religious education.
We always shared the love of writing. My father wrote often. I remember as a child every evening he would write a few lines in small bound diaries. He wrote in Hebrew, his first language, so to me these became sacred books. He spontaneously typed poems on the now absolete typewriter. In his retirement he wrote several books, one describing his life in the Middle East and during his teenage years participating to establish the State of Israel. My father loved whatever I wrote, more importantly he read everything I wrote. Even as an adult, if I wrote an article or story that appeared in a newsletter generated by my workplace, he would read it and it would go like this: He would tell me he read it. He would tell me he picked up on the message I was trying to get across and he would point out the parts he thought were particularly striking. He would compliment, compliment, compliment. Then he would quietly read it again. He would then take it and file it someplace to be kept forever after. I will miss this more than anyone can know.
So, I write this in tribute of my father, Rabbi Joseph A. Poisson, and thank him for all he gave to me, to our family and the countless students he touched along the way. Even though I don’t want to, it is time I say “goodbye.”
My family and I will travel to my father’s homeland, Israel this summer has our youngest daughter will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah there. My father no doubt will “be with us” during this time. Happy Father’s Day Aba*!
(Aba is the Hebrew word for Father.)