Seeing Death From a Distance, Through FaceTime Calls

Technology can play unexpected roles in our lives. This is my experience of depending on FaceTime to see my father quit this world.

Seeing Death From a Distance, Through FaceTime Calls
My father's hand holding my sister's finger
My father’s hand holding my sister’s finger

Having part of my life suspended for more than a year, thanks to COVID-19, wasn’t enough it seems. Recently, I saw my father die, from a distance, through FaceTime calls. It was a reminder that technology can play unexpected roles in our lives. Here is a short personal story.

After battling a severe urinary infection, my father was brought to the hospital on a Monday morning in early spring. According to the nursery staff, his heart pulsations were faint. He was partly conscious but acted confused. Following my father’s recent end-of-life wishes, he didn’t want to be treated by doctors; only comforting treatments were all he was asking for.

He was admitted to the hospital on Monday morning, March first. He died six days later, on March seventh, late at night. Alone, at the time of his death. He was 92.

When I learned he was sick; I knew this was his last round trip to the hospital. A question quickly came up to my mind: should I travel seven hours to see him, one more time? I wasn’t even sure he would wait for me. I was torn. I felt guilty for not going. Then, I remembered my friend’s personal story about losing his father. I wasn’t the only one with a desire to preserve positive memories of my loved ones.

My father was surrounded by my sisters, my brother, and at some point by my old mother. Thanks to all of them, my father probably felt their comforting presence in his last moments. During the first few days at the hospital, they sent me pictures of him through iMessage1. During that trying week, with my sister’s help, I had a chance to see my father slowly die through many FaceTime calls. I took the opportunity to talk to him and tell him how much I loved him2. I remotely saw my father quit this world through my iPhone screen. At some point near the end, I asked them to stop sending me pictures of him; his physical appearance started to deteriorate seriously. I didn’t want to see him like this as it would spoil my recent and mostly positive memories of him, still alive.

The last time I saw my father was last summer, between two COVID-19 infections waves. He was in relatively good shape at the time, albeit suffering from Parkinson’s disease and advanced ageing. I was sad to see him so old and slowly losing his capabilities.

It’s been two months since my father died. We don’t always know what is the best decision in enduring moments. In retrospect, what I know is that I’m ok with my decision. What really helped me come to terms with my decision was the reaction of my two sisters and my brother. They were very respectful of my decision. They told me they could understand. I will always be grateful to them. They don’t know how much they made a big difference.

  1. My nephew, who is a serious photographer, went to see my father and took a few pictures with his iPhone. They are so touching and beautiful. Seeing history through pictures can be so powerful.
  2. My sister was holding her iPhone close to my father’s ear. She told me he was reacting to my words. It was relieving.