Friday, June 27, 2014

Formation of a tribute

On Sunday, I will stand up in front of a crowd of family, friends, acquaintances and people I've never met before and talk about my Dad.

I've been thinking and praying about these words for weeks, but honestly, I've been thinking and praying about these words for four years.  Call it a hunch, call it facing reality, call it whatever you need, but I've been preparing for this day for awhile.

The last few weeks, as I have driven to work and driven home, I've been using the drive to talk out loud.  In the days when I was occasionally called upon to sermonize, I found the way I solidified my thoughts was to just start talking...if you know me at all, that's actually opposite of what one would think about my writing's worked, though!

Except this time it's been harder.  I have things to say...I have so much to say...but the clarity has been missing, the twist, the part that makes this go from a daughter blathering on about her father to a tribute.  I couldn't grab that one thing that would make it all come together.  That one thing that would have made my Dad come up, wrap his arm around my shoulders and say, "You did good, kiddo."

This morning I woke up and suddenly the missing piece had appeared.  I grabbed my computer and the words started to did the tears...and since I'm being honest, the snot.  I wrote and cried for two hours.  Yo Momma came in a one point and I snapped at her (and apologized later) and I wrote and I cried and swiped at my nose and finally, finally, I think I have it.

Sunday is going to be really hard...but I think, at the end of the day, my Dad would throw is arm around my shoulders, pull me into his side and say, "You did good, kiddo."  and really, nothing else matters. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Joyful does not equal happy

There is a quiet truth tumbling around in my soul.  I have been aware of the tumbling for awhile but have attempted to ignore rather than acknowledge this truth.  The time has come, though, to say it out does not equal happiness in my life.

For so long I have thought those two words were synonymous.  In the last few years I have come to see them as vastly different.  I have the ability to be joyful while simultaneously unhappy...deeply unhappy.  How does this work?  It's convoluted.

I love to laugh. I am open to laughter and sometimes laugh at things other people can't find the humor in.  I try not be obnoxious but it's there.  I tend to smile with my whole being.  It comes from deep inside.  I feel the change in my soul.  In my life, joy comes from my soul.  I believe this joy comes from knowing the love and peace of God.  That does not mean that I am happy.

For me, happiness is a state of mind.  I can choose to be happy, I can choose to be a grumpy butt, I can choose to just be numb.  Lately I have lived in the state of numb. I smile and laugh but the joy, the happiness is only surface deep. There isn't anything substantial behind it. I still have the joy of knowing God, but there isn't much else in the way of happiness.

One of the places where I have found much joy AND happiness has been on Mission Trips.  As the days flew by and the Oklahoma trip approached, I found myself eagerly waiting those moments where we would laugh uncontrollably, where the joy of serving God and the happiness of the moments would come together creating a peace inside my soul that I have been seeking for a long time.

The trip started out with laughter.  I loved being in the airport with 28 teenagers sprawled out over the floor, laughing and having fun together...and talking "The Bachelor".  We laughed well the first couple of days and then something happened and laughter kind of died away.  The trip became serious.  Yes, laughter was still there, the joy in serving was still there but there was a solemnity settling over the entire group.  I had joy in what I was doing but I was not happy.

Friday morning arrived and I found that my happy was nowhere to be found.  After the fourth "get out of bed now" call to the young women in my care and with that feeling of tired almost-at-the-breaking point frustration beginning to overwhelm me, I turned to another adult and said "They are yours, I just can't do this today."  I walked down the stairs, down the hall to breakfast and prayed hard, "God, I need laughter today.  I need soul-filling conversations.  I need this week to end on a good note."

I love it when God answers prayer quickly.  Within a couple of hours I found myself on a job site with Yo Momma and 5 young women who were having a blast together.  By the end of the day I was driving a truck down the road with the 5 young women laughing so hard I almost had to pull over.  There had been some intense and soul-filling conversations during the day.  There was love and laughter flowing and in that moment, in that state happiness and joy were synonymous. 

Later that day the happiness had abated and in the weeks since I've returned that state of just moving through life, a little numb, not overly happy but always knowing a sense of joy deep inside my soul.  Even in the intense moments of grief these last few weeks, an uncontainable peaceful joy still resides just below that grief.  

I wish we had a society where people really truly understood the difference between happiness and joy.  I wish the Christian community understood the difference between the two.  I wish we could get beyond the black and white and see the messy, grey area of humanity and really understand and accept when someone says, I am not happy, but I am joyful and it's okay.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

This journey of grief

I'm not unfamiliar with grief.  I am unfamiliar with this particular road.

Losing a grandparent, a brother/friend, a job, a pet, is different, oh so different, than losing a parent.

The sorrow, the sharp, aching hollowness, the ever present "lump in the throat" that is unlike any before, the sudden, intense dislike of all things Father's Day, those things are new.

My previous experiences with grief have helped me walk through some aspects of this journey, though.

  • The realization that there are people for whom I will be the one consoling not being consoled.

  • Compassionately and gently deflecting comments meant for support and comfort that really do not bring comfort at all.  I move to ban "God has a plan" from all offerings of condolences, ever.  There is nothing comforting to me about God planning for my Dad to die. NOTHING.  As much as I have clung to Jeremiah 29:11 in the past, that verse isn't bringing me comfort right now.  So let's just drop the whole plan thing as a means of comfort, OK?  Thanks.

  • The awkwardness that comes when someone just doesn't know what to say...I usually don't know what to say either, you are welcome to sit in silence with me and "hold my hand".

  • The offering of food or help or "whatever you need".  The problem is I really don't know what I need...besides one more hug from Papa Bear and that's not an option on the table.

And then there are those things that have taken me by surprise.

  • The overwhelming, and I do mean overwhelming, show of support and compassion from the people in our community.  Oh.My.Gosh.   

  • Newish and older church friends who have reached out through phone calls, texts, cards, hugs.

  • People I have known well that haven't said a thing...that has been pretty telling.  I'm not sure if that one is a reflection of me or them.

  • Hearing stories from former students, Facebook group friends, and others who were impacted by Papa Bear.  There are so many things we never knew.

A few years ago, I read an article by someone who had explained grief as a winding road with many twists and turns.  Sometimes you will turn a corner and there will be something beautiful that takes your breath away.  Then you go around another corner and there will be something horribly hard to deal with and the tears and sadness overwhelm you again.  Two weeks into this time of grief and I know those words to be true.

And so, down the winding path I travel...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Papa Bear - March 1942 - June 2014

Maui, October 2014 - Our final father-daughter photo
Day is done,
Gone the sun.
From the lake,
From the hills,
From the sky.
Fare thee well,
Safely rest
God is nigh.*

(*Not the exact words but they are what I that's what I'm singing today.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Things change rapidly

The following was written on Friday.  It seems like a year has come and gone in the last two days. I don't have words for the hurt of unknowing and despair.  I'm working at just resting...  

I'm sitting in the atrium at the big hospital, while two floors up my Dad lies in a hospital bed with a fever, pneumonia setting in, delusions and is in the process of being intubated.  I pray that in a week, I will come back to this space and have good I'm hoping he makes it until tomorrow.

That has been our week.  Monday, after I posted about watching him twitch in bed, things changed rapidly.  He started vomiting and then aspirated the vomit and things went down hill within 15 minutes.  The Rapid Response Team was called and within the space of a half hour he was being moved to ICU and that is where he has been all week.  He has a fever, an infection in his blood, pneumonia and today the decision was made that to insert a breathing tube, with the goal of getting him through the infection.  We have no idea if the chemo worked because they can't take a bone marrow sample until he is cleared of the infection.

There are things that I anticipated, there is much I was not prepared for.  Holding my Dad's hand and repeatedly telling him that he can't get out of bed, that we can't take him home, that he needs to just rest. Holding onto his leg so that he didn't just leap out of bed, listening to him struggle for breath, watching his hair fall out, and this morning getting a distressed phone call from him about his computer.  He was in a delusional state, again and was certain the hospital had stolen his computer...that was sitting right next to him.  I was given instructions to "Go, LEAVE", and then "Get the police".  I left, that's what he needed me to do.  I cried all the way out the door and down the three flights of stairs to the atrium.  That's where Lupe found me.

Lupe was cleaning the floor.  She came by once to clean the floor as I was sitting there crying and texting friends and checking to see who else my Dad had called in his delusional state (there were several people).  She came by again when my Mom was there and stood and talked to us and said something that just struck my soul.  Just rest in Jesus hands.  We both got hugs and kisses, Lupe relayed her story but I heard what I needed.  Rest in Jesus hands.

There are words of comfort and compassion that people have offered.  I've found three phrases helpful, so far.  "I'm praying."  "I love you."  and today from Lupe, "Rest in Jesus hands."

I don't know what the next hour will bring.  I don't know if my Dad will leave the hospital alive.  I'm not ready to say goodbye, but who is?  All I know is that this sh*t is hard, and right now we're resting in Jesus hands...and the doctors at Stanford.