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The Day My Dad Was Going To Die

Written by: Hollis Citron, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As life unfolds, it invites us to question our roles, identity and what we believe is right & wrong. One does not know how they will truly respond or react until the situation is presented.

It was July 25th, 2003. Though my father was young, at the age of 62, he had many health issues and it was determined to be his time. We had made the decision to take him off life support and the doctors said it would be within the day that he would be gone. It felt so strange to wake up that day and think, my Dad is going to die today.

We woke up in the early morning, to get ready to go over to the hospital. I had slept over with my Mom and brother, it just felt right to spend the night at the home where I grew up on the day that my father would leave this planet. In one day, reality struck, leaving childhood behind and stepping fully into adulthood. We went to the hospital to meet my husband, 3-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter and close family members to be there for support and to say goodbye.

It was all very surreal what was happening in two different rooms in the same space in our movie. My mom, brother and I stood around my Dad telling stories, saying how much we loved him while not knowing exactly what to say. We were crying, holding hands and all at the same time trying to appear strong for him to allow him to feel safe in what was the next step. The rest of the family was in the waiting room with the kids and cousins playing, eating snacks and having a different experience, I can only assume.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to have known the day that this major life transition was happening. We were able to be together and say amongst ourselves what needed to be said even though my father could not speak. There is a beauty in being in a space together truly being present and acknowledging the moment despite the circumstances.

When faced with these circumstances, this was all new territory. How is one supposed to act in this situation? What is considered appropriate or not? Should my kids have been in the hospital waiting room? These are all decisions that were made as a family and with raw emotion. When facing life and death, I believe the true gift is LOVE.

This experience brought attention to how we fall into roles in life and how to navigate them with our personal survival instincts that allow us to feel safe.

The naturally established roles are: the daughter, son, mother , father etc. Then there are the ones that we take on for all of the reasons that our life has sculpted for us based on our experiences and are more fluid than involving more choice and can be changed like relationship status and what you do for a living.

In the role of an educator, I also tend to be a fixer and crave communication to understand the world. The evening before this day, being “responsible” I called my job that I was supposed to go to and told them I could not be in the next day and made up some really early time frame to be back. When they heard the reason I wouldn't be at work, there was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone. Then a logical and kind response was given saying , “We will see you in a few weeks. Take some time for yourself and your family and we are very sorry for your loss.” I was guided to look beyond just staying in motion but stopping to simply be, as uncomfortable as it all felt.

When we go through any kind of loss or transition, there is an opportunity to dive deeper into ourselves and learn about who we are and why we do what we do. The unwritten rules or “Norms”, that determine social behaviors come from family, society and friends. When we are experiencing grief, anger, confusion due to challenging circumstances, we can start to question or even get triggered by certain customs or beliefs.

Some might be:

  • Religion

  • Customs passed on through the generations

  • Morals

  • Laws

  • The way we dress

I ask you, Do you follow the “Norms” or challenge them? If you abide by them, you could be the follower, challenge them you could be labeled the rebel.

The way we live our lives really is a choice, even though it does not feel that way many times. When my father was leaving us, he could not speak, but when we spoke to him at one point, a tear rolled down his face as we told him it was ok to let go and be free from the pain, he had our PERMISSION. That word is a powerful one! It runs deep. We know what feels right and wrong and often don’t allow ourselves to do what we really want based on the should’s or what we could miss out on.

Giving ourselves PERMISSION, allows us to be truly authentic. When choices are made that go against how you are seen, one might hear things like, “ You don’t do that, it is not like you.” In reality, when it feels like a hurricane in the pit of your stomach, this is the perfect time to allow and say YES to do that thing that you have wanted to do!

My father was a banker and insurance man and then went through his mid-life crisis,one might say. He decided to turn his passion for landscape photography (ocean predominantly) into his full-time career. He was so happy when he entered this space. His personality got to shine, he had great people skills. The beach, which was a place of solace and joy, which he got to look at often and he got to dress the way he wanted to as well... He was a clothing and shoe connoisseur, it truly allowed him to feel expressive and authentic.

One day he called me from the ICU, on one of the many hospital visits, asking me to pick up a pair of pants he put on hold at Bloomingdale’s. My father truly loved clothes with every fiber of his being. He really believed in taking pride in how he fully presented himself. : what he wore, his cologne(s), and how he layered the smells to get the perfect scent.

You would maybe not be surprised at my response when he asked me to pick up these horrible-looking salmon-colored pants that were on hold for him. The words that I said were

“ Dad, what are you doing? Why don’t you focus on getting better”.

His response was, “ Hollis be concerned when I am not doing this.” I totally get that now. I was not getting his joy.

Passions that we have could be seen as fixations. They can define us and make us who we are and how we are viewed. It can make one seem eccentric, a rule follower, spontaneous. It is easy to place judgment on what can make another happy. Clothing made my Dad truly happy. He put out the energy to look for the pants by making a phone call and asking me to pick them up for him. It was like his medicine. It gave him life, gave him a purpose, something to look forward to. One could call it enabling, but I see it as giving comfort.

This all being said, the word that comes to mind is FREEDOM. Freedom to be present, Freedom to make mistakes, Freedom to be expressive, Freedom to explore possibilities, Freedom to expand beyond the shoulds and routines of what you have always done.

Here is my question for you: What makes you feel free? It does not have to be a huge leap, like leaving your job. It can be dancing around the kitchen with the music blaring and singing at the top of your lungs.

You deserve to be free… It can be found in places like this:

  • Activities you love to do or want to

  • People that you surround yourself with

  • Music that inspires

  • Mantras or practices

  • Whatever else comes to mind

Go outside the box and Get it out of your head and into the world by:

  • Writing it as a story

  • Putting random words on post its to uplift and remind

  • Journaling

  • Vision boarding it

  • Creating a song/Singing/Playing an instrument

  • Hanging out with friends and creating a sacred space

  • There are no rules

We don’t always know when our time is up. Life is a gift. Be aware of the moments, Be grateful for them however they present themselves.

This is what truly makes us feel ALIVE.

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Hollis Citron, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Hollis Citron is on a mission to make creativity accessible to everyone by exposing new possibilities. She has spent nearly 30 years of my life helping students of all ages and in all settings to access their creative expression. I Am Creative & Express Yourself Publishing was born from this passion to help people build their confidence to recognize, encourage and express the innate expression they are born with.

Hollis does this through experiential kits, creativity coaching, her podcast: Creative Conversations with Hollis Citron & creating multi-author books to create community and safe space for people to share their stories to empower themselves and the world.

Creativity goes beyond a pencil & a paintbrush! It is your voice, your expression, and everyone has one.



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