I am looking at my father’s face, as he lies in bed in a very old hospital in Rome. The many tubes attached to his body are supposed to keep him alive until all his loved ones get here to say their final goodbyes.

I am looking for a sign that shows my father does not want to go after all; that he has chosen to stay in this often-heart-breaking life, no matter what it takes. I am looking at him while squeezing his hand. ‘Come on, Papa. You cannot die. Come on, Dad. I am getting married in three months. You are not supposed to die.’

He does not wake up and his hand never moves again.

The doctors tell us that it would be very kind to let him go sooner rather than later. Should we choose to keep his life support on, the quality of his life would be extremely poor. The man, who is still very young, is quickly leaving us, and I am pissed off.

When do we get to play God?

At what moment do we decide to end another person’s life, whether that is our own parent or a stranger?

I should not be here tonight. I have a wedding to attend to, in three months, and I should be at home choosing flowers and cake decorations. Instead, here I am, and I have never felt so angry in my entire life.

‘Screw you, God, you coward. Where are you when we need you to make a decision? Where the hell are you when you need to save the day?’

I am looking outside the window at a few patients and their loved ones in the little courtyard downstairs. Sitting on benches scattered around, I can hear their laughter while they talk away.

Will I remember my father’s voice?

‘Please, Dad, please, talk to us. We cannot make this decision for you. If you can hear us, please let us know what we are to do.’

We turned my father’s life support off on a very tranquil afternoon, as the sun was going down and the red sky slowly turned into dusty pink. They say that at twilight we can feel our souls. The liminal times usually bring stillness and clarity, and we are more open to something bigger than ourselves.

Sitting in the small bar outside the hospital, life is still happening around me; people coming and going, the sound of the cars’ engines in full swing, and kids’ tiny voices echoing in the distance.

So much life, while I have just met Lady Death and I wish I had asked her a few questions. Where will she take my dad? Will he ever come back? Was he OK and did he wish he still was with us? Mostly, I wish I had told her that it is truly unfair how she turns up uninvited only to find us utterly unprepared.

And while the sky is slowly turning a beautiful pearly grey colour, the air suddenly becomes light and very still. Every sound is amplified, every smell comes straight into my senses, my heart’s beat echoes loudly, and my mind is strangely quiet and yet never so aware.

I am alive. My father has just died, and I feel alive for the very first time in my life.

Everything around me moves graciously, while the man soon to become my husband and I slowly sip bourbon on the rocks, staring at each other in silence.

‘To Papa Andrea, the man I never got to know enough.’ Warren says as he raises his glass, and his blue eyes almost pierce my heart.

‘Let’s go for a walk. It will do us good,’ he thoughtfully suggests.

The ancient streets of Rome are busy, even this late at night. Myriad of tourists, slowly walk around, trying not to miss any of the stunning beauty of la Citta’ Eterna. Picture after picture; everybody around me wants to capture this moment and make it last forever.

My father has just died, and life has not stopped.

Does she ever? Could we ever ask life to halt if only for one tiny moment, so as to take another breath?

We arrive in Piazza di Trevi and are taken aback by the sheer majesty of the famous fountain, we sit by its edges, while the crowd around throws little coins in the water as per an ancient tradition. Everywhere I look, life has made her appearance again. Grand and unapologetic, she is at her best in this square where so many have wowed eternal love through the ages.

‘Will you marry me?’ Warren takes my hand in his. He had already proposed on New Year’s Eve while fireworks lit up the sky and we’d danced the old year away. Tonight, his question surprises and yet deeply moves me.

‘I do not want to waste time waiting for a perfect moment. This is as beautiful as it is ever going to be. Marry me and let’s cherish this life together.’

I whisper, yes into his ear, as I hold his hand tight, never wanting to let it go while tourists and locals swarm around us. As their voices and laughter echo in the chilly February air, we sit closer, offering each other a silence that speaks a thousand words. Two grieving hearts celebrate the life that just ended and the one yet to begin, knowing that what happens in between is what keeps this world going.

No, life does not stop. We are simply asked to trust her. Even when our hearts break, for they will heal again. We tend to our heart’s pain by allowing the very things our mind cannot grasp to naturally happen. In the end, we come to learn that joy and sorrow are never too far apart, just like life and death.

From ‘The Day I Found God In A Pub,’ available now on Amazon.

In Grace,

Antonia Lyons

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