good buttons

My father died four weeks ago, at 10:15 am, while the Naked Eyes song “Always Something There to Remind Me” played on the radio. I watched his heart rate fall on the monitor – down, down, down to zero. He didn’t want to die alone, and I was able to help make sure he didn’t.

Since Dad’s first hospital visit in February, life has been chaotic. I couldn’t tell you where 2013 went, because I can’t reconcile the fact that all of the fighting we did on his behalf still resulted in his death a mere five months later.

In the last few weeks of his life, I finally got my father to stop drinking cow’s milk (a gallon of whole milk each week, for one person). I made him almond milk in the Vitamix, and bought him coconut milk from the supermarket. One of the last times he was in my apartment, I had him taste Beyond Meat. He thought it tasted like chicken. His last pizza was a cheeseless one, because he was retaining too much fluid to have the extra sodium.

As I’m recalling these things, I feel tears stinging my eyes. It’s suddenly dawned on me that Dad wished me a happy vegan anniversary on Thanksgiving, last year or the year before. While my father was nowhere near vegan, I suppose my veganism influenced him in some ways. I’ve talked before about how being vegan is the only thing that consistently makes sense to me, and no wonder – it is in every crack and crevice of my day-to-day.

During the thirty-six hours between his second-to-last and final hospital stay, as I was running errands and making vegan brunch plans with another YDV writer, Dad waved me over to give me a hug and called me a good person. I am not a huggy person (ask anyone), but I’m glad I let him hug me that day. I’m glad he got to come home for at least a short while, even if he probably should never have been allowed out of the hospital. I’m glad to have the memory of my father paying me such a compliment.

I don’t always feel like a good person. Dad’s been gone four weeks, and in three more I’ll be moving back in with my mother to help her out. I don’t mean to seem put out by this when I gripe about having to give up an apartment I love, independence I thrive on, and a convenient distance from the local park. I don’t mean to be uncompassionate when I tell my mother she has to hurry up and make room for all of my stuff. I don’t mean to force my ethics on her when I tell her I will not buy her animal products and that she’ll have to deal with it.

I am doing the best I can, but I am beating myself up for not doing better.

We don’t live in a perfect world. People die too young from diseases that are largely preventable. Societal norms influence our every thought. Big business brainwashes us into accepting the status quo, even when it’s cruel and unnecessary.

I am a vegan who keeps a vegan home, moving into a non-vegan household. My salary, which has paid for a single person’s needs up until now, will have to cover two. I will be a vegan on a budget, with new challenges and new experiences.

I feel like I am going to have to learn how to be good within new constraints. Perhaps I’ll tell you a bit about the process, once Mom and I are over this initial hurdle of grieving and change and rushed decisions all coming to a head at once.

My father thought I was a good person, and I’d like to prove him right.

Photo credit: Steve Rhodes via Flickr