A Vulnerable Gift
We’re nearing the 3 year mark since my Daddy passed away. In some ways it feels like yesterday and other days I can’t remember the last time we had a long chat. Perhaps that’s evidence of his lengthy disease that took his speech a few years in. Grief is a funny thing. You’d think I’d be “over it", but I’m learning that grief continues to cycle through, even though my life has very much “moved on” since he passed. I guess you don’t just get over the people that matter more than life itself to you. They stay, almost more obviously in their absence.
Today I was driving home and glanced over to see a big 4 point buck standing a few feet from my car. My Dad used to pull over and stare at those magnificent creatures whenever he saw them. I remember the sound of his excitement at the site of one. In less than a second I could hear him in my head, and feel him like he was there in the car with me.
It’s those little reflections of remembrance that give me comfort in his absence, even as I equally feel the weight of not being able to share moments like this with him anymore. I’m learning that in my grief, perspective is a valuable tool that can either tear me a part or build me up in my reflection of him. There are many spaces in time where my perspective in his struggle allowed me to see joy amidst the pain.
It was the last few weeks of my Dad’s time here on earth. I had been by his side for many days, laying mostly with him in bed, taking in each breath and movement of his body. We watched all of his favorite movies together and he would often reach over and hold my hand between the seizures that ravaged his body. It was a game of waiting for the inevitable, a time I look back on and cherish deeply.
My Dad fell not long before, and was mostly bed ridden. His feet often had a hard time telling his body to move, and getting him from the bed to the bathroom took two people most of the time. In his disease we often found ourselves amazed at the body’s natural desire to LIVE! One day he couldn’t move and the next, you’d find him trying to stand up on his own. His will, a powerful tool to keep persevering. A sign that one’s body is designed to rise up and keep going.
On a particular day during this time, I took a break and decided to take a long shower. I stood there and tried to wash off the pain I was feeling. I studied the droplets of water hit my hands and palpated the bruise on my leg and arms from lifting his body. This small moment of re-energizing gave me mental strength to walk back into that room again and continue to say good-bye. To relish in our time together. You see, it never mattered to me how sick he was, I was always comforted by his steadfast presence in my life and understood that each day with him was a gift.
My shower ended. I grabbed the towel and began to dry my body off when I heard a loud yell from the other room. It was my Mom. She needed help. In my haste I burst open the bathroom door, ran across the landing and into their room. My Dad had rallied again and I found him on his knees in their walk-in closet. She couldn’t lift him by herself. I went over and assisted him to his feet. We walked slowly by his side, at his own turtle pace, to the edge of his bed. He always said, “Slow and steady wins the race.” We had to position his body just so, so that when we lifted him back into bed we could easily manage to pull him up with the sheet where he needed to be. As he turned and sat down on the edge of the bed, all three of us realized at the same time, I was in fact still very much naked. My state of vulnerability seemed to be greater than my Dad’s. My Mom and I burst into a laughter. A kind of laughter that only comes from beautiful chaos like this. My Dad hadn’t seen me in my birthday suit for over two decades and now he was staring at me like I was the one struggling. I was in fact, the one struggling. He wasn’t able to laugh, but I could see as our eyes shifted to his in this split second of realization, he did in fact know this was not a normal situation for any of us!
It’s funny how in a season of tragedy we were given laughter. A true irreplaceable gift. A chance to remember in our crisis, that good still exists and life, however crazy it may seem, always holds moments of goodness. No matter how bad it gets, beauty can be found if we’re willing to see it. I take this lesson with me as I carry on, knowing that no matter what life brings, there’s always light somewhere, you just have to be willing to see it. And that perhaps, being vulnerable is the way for our perspective to change long enough to see these kinds of moments as a gift.