Richard Cohen
Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

Why Father’s Day is Still Somber to Me

The pain never goes away...

Despite the fact that I am so proud to have Matthew Cohen as my son that I smile just thinking about it, my deceased father and his deceased father — with whom I was extremely close — are still always on my mind. Although I had already written about my experience in detail as to why Father’s Day is still somber to me in this article back on Sunday, June 14, 2017, I did not include photographs of him or the last messages which he sent to me via e-mail.

Why Father’s Day is Still Somber to Me

I never read anything so ominous from my father in my entire life — so when I received the following message in my e-mail account, it was not comforting, to say the least.

I went to the Dr yesterday, he’s watching me carefully, every week. I have never been so sick in my life! This is a horrible illness. I have no energy, trouble catching my breath all the time with very little exertion & coughing fits that can knock you out. He doesn’t expect me to be better until September. I have to see him again next week & if the fluid hasn’t cleared up in 2weeks (I will take more x-rays) it has to be drained with a needle by a specialist.

I asked him about taking the trip & he said we’ll see what’s doing that week, so prepare Matthew in case I can’t make it. I have the ticket so it has to be used sometime. We’re still looking at Thanksgiving coming up to you.

Brian I really want to be there for your birthday so pray for me.

Miss you all, love


The ticket to which he was referring was an airplane ticket. When I told him that him visiting me for my birthday would be a great present and that I hoped that he would feel better enough to travel, he responded:

I know & I really want to be, but I have been so week that when I walk to my mailbox & back I can hardly catch my breath. I haven’t been out of the house except for that for 2 weeks. Google pneumonia & you’ll see how bad it is. I have never felt like this in my life. It’s all up to how I feel & what the Dr says. I hope I can come. I don’t want to pay an additional $50 penalty either for the ticket. It was such a great price.

Yes — he was concerned about losing the cost of the airplane ticket which he purchased, which demonstrated that he was determined to visit me for my birthday.

He never made it:

I hate to add more bad news, but I am actually worse. I spent all day running around to Dr’s & getting x-rays. Apparently they don’t know what’s causing the fluid. It can be a list of things including cancer. They are going to do a needle biopsy Friday, that’s pulling some fluid out, checking the color & sending it to the lab for analysis. I won’t know anything until next week. I had to go see a pulmonary Dr today also.

The fluid in my lung is also sitting on top of the lung thereby restricting my breathing capacity tremendously.

Brian: I am so sorry I will not be able to make the trip next week.

Devastated by the news, I then booked a ticket to go visit him. He wrote:

I am very weak & can’t type too much or talk much. I am going into the hospital next week to have all the fluid removed from my lungs. They will then test that. So far the tests are inconclusive. Good thing is that they didn’t find cancer in the cells tested. Bad thing is that the fluid tested is thick showing something not right. If the fluid doesn’t return then I should be ok. If it does I will need to go for exploratory biopsy, this is an invasive procedure.

The doctors were wrong. No one was able to find out that he was suffering from stage four cancer…

I know, what hell, I can hardly function. They didn’t want me in the hospital because they said I would be miserable there & they couldn’t do anything more for me. They also were fearful of me catching more diseases there. Swine flu is there now.

…until it was too late — way too late. That message was the last one I received in my e-mail account from him.

Little did I know when I purchased my airline ticket that he would eventually be admitted into the hospital…

…and he never returned home.

Instead of rehashing all of the details of that experience, please refer to the aforementioned article.

Despite being an adult, I felt like an orphan. I guess I became one at that moment…?!?

I gave the eulogy at his funeral — just as I had done at the funeral of my grandfather, who was his father. It was simultaneously both an honor and a painful experience.

Final Boarding Call

As my mother was the classic blonde bombshell wearing the poodle skirt and bobbie socks when she was a teenager, my father was the stereotypical handsome “greaser”: the slicked-back hair, the leather jacket, the pack of cigarettes bulging in his sleeve. Seeing the photographs of them would have someone believe that they were extracted from some advertisement or movie from the late 1950s.

My father would take my grandparent’s Plymouth Golden Commando and win race after race on the streets of Brooklyn. That experience arguably began his love for cars; and he enjoyed test driving both rental cars and cars at vehicle dealerships. I enjoyed those experiences with him.

Richard Cohen
Matthew Cohen gives his grandfather a kiss. Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

Advertisements for Father’s Day are everywhere every year at this time in June — and all they do is sadden me. “Show Dad you love him.” “Win free tickets for Dad.” “Make his day special.” “Don’t just buy him another tie.” Getting bombarded with them from all directions does not help at all.

I realize that losing a father is natural in the course of life. It certainly beats a parent losing a child to a disease or an accident…

…but I have no regrets. It was a gut-wrenching loss for me, and it was clearly one of the toughest moments of my entire life from which I am unsure that I will ever fully recover; but the situation could have been significantly worse — like not seeing him one last time while he was still alive. During those final days — whether he was in the mood to hear it or not — I told my father everything that I wanted him to know and hear while he was still lucid. A part of me is who I am because of him; so in a way, he still lives on through me.

Bereavement airfares may no longer exist on many airlines; but having reservations agents and gate agents of an airline who can do what they can to ease an otherwise difficult situation in terms of flight arrangements can be a world of difference; and I was fortunate to have experienced that.

If your father is still alive, please let him know how important he is to you — and not just on Father’s Day either. In fact, tell everyone who means something to you how much they mean to you and how you are fortunate to have them in your life. It will brighten their days — and yours as well.

Fortunately, I have many hours of video of my father recorded from over the years; so I can always see and hear him again any time I want.

In the meantime, I still miss my father — may he rest in peace.

This one is for you, Dad…

All photographs ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

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