My father passed away the day before Father's Day last year, surrounded by his entire family. He was 88 years old. My sister, brother and I were outnumbered by nieces, nephews, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. It was beautiful and extremely moving as all the kids made a circle around the bed, prayed and sang songs to him. My daughter Arianna was holding one of his hands while her cousin Jackie held the other.

My father had been battling Alzheimer's and no longer recognized any of us—except that he thought I was my mother and my mother was me. He was so sweet and dear with my mom, but would make demands of me. It confused me in the beginning until we realized what was happening. So, we decided to just go with it and it took pressure off my mom, since now I was the focus of all his demands. It was sweet to watch him interact with my mom thinking it was me.

As he lay there in the emergency room, my father went in and out of consciousness. At one point, as the kids were singing, I lifted his head and said: "Look, Poppi, all of your kids are here to be with you. Can you hear them? Can you see them? If you do hear and see them, squeeze Arianna's hand." At that point his eyes, became so clear and he no longer looked stunned or confused. He looked right at Arianna, squeezed her hand, nodded his head and smiled at her. Then he looked around the whole room and his eyes went to each and every person he could see in his eye line. It lasted only a few moments, but I know Dad saw and recognized everyone he made eye contact with. It was his last lucid moment. He closed his eyes, and he never regained consciousness. He passed a few hours later.

See how Cristina and her family celebrated that Father's Day


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