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May 20 / Peter Lichtenberg

Sitting with My Father

In my mind I can see Susan, my mom and dad, and me hiking the Wissahickon trail in Philadelphia. The sun was shining on us, and on my life. Susan and I weren’t married yet, but we knew we would be together for a lifetime. At one point on the trail, there is a path next to the river and some benches.

A photo I came across last year is of me, Susan and my mom. My mom is talking and gesturing to Susan, and I am smiling at the camera, while my arm is around Susan’s shoulder. Her hand is reaching up and holding mine. My smile is the kind that says, “Yes, I do know how lucky I am.” That memory is 22-years-old.

Today I sit by my father’s bedside during his final days of life. Susan went first; dying of cancer two months shy of her 51st birthday and near our 15th wedding anniversary. (We have two children who were 12 and 9 when Susan died.) My mom, who entered the emergency room the week after Susan’s bad news of metastatic cancer, had multiple myeloma. What an incredible survivor she was! She lived almost four years after Susan’s death, dying at age 88.

Peter with his parents (2002)

I promised my mom that I would watch out for my dad. Two years before her death, I came to town to help move my dad from their independent apartment to the Assisted Living unit due to his dementia and our belief at the time that mom would be dead within a few months. I have now been here with him for six days; a gift to me that during the Covid 19 virus I am able to put PPE on and come into the facility. He has been in hospice and his dying has been peaceful.

I hate that I will look at that photo and think I am the only one in the picture still living. I will be at peace, however, knowing that I was here—not just for dad, or myself, but for my mother. I will remember us as a foursome—we had so many cherished times.

Peter’s father died peacefully the morning of May 22. Peter was by his side.


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  1. Bill Winkler / May 24 2020

    The sadness of endings is extremely personal. You hold all those memories and you alone are uniquely qualified to feel the spectrum of loss. Very sorry my friend.

  2. Hikaye Oku / May 24 2020

    I’m sorry for your father .. he will always live in your heart

  3. Sam Bloomfield / May 23 2020


    So sorry to hear about your dad. I hope you find comfort in all that he did and was; and all that he meant to all of us.

  4. Peter Lichtenberg / May 23 2020

    Thank you Joe!

  5. Joe Casciani / May 23 2020

    We are all connected, whether alive or after death. Nice story to share. Thanks, Peter. Sorry for your loss.

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