My father, the Reverend Laing Witherspoon Sibbet, passed away this New Year’s Day at Sutter Solano Medical Center, in Vallejo, California. His death, as did his life, touched me deeply, and I’d like to share some of this story. He was 93, and up until his last sermon on Christmas Day in 2008, a full time Congregationalist pastor. I’ll begin at the end with what I wrote to the family the evening of his passing.
“Dad peacefully left his body tonight at 8:05 when he stopped breathing at the conclusion of a ceremonial last supper we held for him in the hospital. The day was a graceful ballet of our family— gathering and forming a loving container for his passing. He began to doze midday, after some animated attempts to talk and relate to his great grandson, Benjamin in the morning. (A severe stroke the prior day had left him unable to talk or move anything on his right side.) As the afternoon wore on his temperature cooled, his heart slowed, and the doctors were pretty sure he would be passing within the next day or so. At 6:00 we read him a very moving goodbye letter from his grand daughter Sage. Not wanting to leave him at this point, but needing dinner, we decided to have a “last supper.” A nearby Lucky Store provided unsliced sourdough loaf, grape juice, a candle, cineraria in full blue bloom, and tapioca pudding, his favorite. His wife Joanne, my brother James and wife Carole and I created a little altar on the hospital bed at his feet and stood around him in circle as he labored to breathe. He wasn’t in pain, and looked like he was going.