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Two Rivers (by a Guest Blogger) June 28, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Tim’s father died on June 2. Tim was able to be with him for the last ten days of his life, fully participating in hospice. The memorial service was June 24. This is Tim’s tribute, which he read at the service.

Here’s a little fishing story.

When I was a young boy, about 12 years old, I had a big night. I went fishing with my dad.

The river was low, it was a summer evening—perfect for wet wading in our cutoffs and old sneakers.

We stepped into the water just before sunset and started to fish. This was the first time Dad let me join him wading out into the Susquehanna.

“Always respect the river.” He always told me this. “Every year there is some tragic story of kids drowning because they took the river for granted. Stay alert and aware of what’s around you, and you’ll be fine.”

This was clearly no joke. It wasn’t about how to wade. It was about how to be when I waded.

So out we went. The water came up to Dad’s thighs and occasionally his waist. I was waist deep, then chest deep, staying close, fishing by his side.

We cast into the sunset. The river was alive, not only with fish, but with a strong, steady current that threatened to knock me off my feet. I tried putting my back to the current. I tried standing sideways to reduce the drag. It was awkward at first, but with practice I found that if I didn’t fight it, if I leaned into it, it supported me, even lifted me a little. The water was cool. I felt at home.

Two hours later it was dark. There were exciting and mysterious splashes up ahead. I wanted to reach them. Fishing is like that. There is a constant striving to cast a little farther, reach some pocket of water beyond your reach. So we cast, waded a little farther, and cast—looking for some connection with what we couldn’t see. I always think of Dad with that confidence that I lack, leaning hard into the current, fearlessly reaching out in any new situation, into the mystery ahead.

By this time we had discovered the ledges. They were easy to feel with your feet, even when you couldn’t see them. One step at a time. “Don’t move your left foot until your right foot is secure.” By sticking to the tops of the ledge, seeking the high ground, we found ourselves a quarter mile out. We didn’t talk much, and as Dad’s confidence in me grew, we found different forks of the ledge to wade on, but always within earshot.

I knew that he was worried about me, but at the same time he was a little bit proud. He wanted to take care of me, but he knew that I had some things to learn. So he gave me a little distance and simply checked in whenever he hooked a fish or heard me splashing around.


Three weeks ago, I had another big night. I went fishing with my dad.

I had the privilege to wade into the second river.

We were in Dad and Barb’s home. Just five days ago, Amy rode with him in the ambulance from the hospital. He was home.

I had just taken the hard lesson of learning about palliative care.

By some miracle, I was with him for his last ten days. Four of those were in the hospital and the last six in his home. Communication was hard in the hospital, but he had made it crystal clear that he wanted to leave. He wanted to go home.

We took turns at his side, helping in any way we could.

I learned a lot from my sister and brothers about how to help him. Changing sheets with him on the bed—thanks, Dave! Swabbing his mouth—thanks, Amy! Tom had a particularly challenging night before I arrived, and I was astounded by his courage and strength. With all this help, I gave it my best.

For a few nights I had the overnight shift with my nephew, Austin. He was an angel, at my dad’s side every night. Barb was there with me always, in a chair at his side.

In the early morning hours, everyone dozed off but me and Dad.


And there we were: back in the river, sticking to the top of the ledge.

His breathing frightened me, but he was leaning strong into the current, casting out to connect to the unseen. He would raise an arm, setting the hook, then he laid it back at his side. The water was cool; it was alive. We felt at home.

He wanted to take care of me, but he knew that I had something to learn.