It was a beautiful funeral today for my dad. Although it stormed outside, the atmosphere inside was peaceful. Lots of family and friends gathered and reminisced. My brother-in-law gave a very touching eulogy of the impact my dad had on his life. And by the time we got to the gravesite, the sun was shining. It was an event my dad would have approved of–a celebration of his life and not a time of sorrow and crying. I’m thankful for the love I felt today.
My dad died today. My sisters and mom and I sat by his bedside all night last night, listening to his labored breathing, holding our own breath every time he stopped too long between gasps. He never woke up. So we chatted amongst ourselves and cried intermittently and finally, around 2 am, requested pillows and blankets and tried to sleep on wooden folding chairs. There’s something exhausting and guilty-feeling about waiting for death. The constant wondering if the next moment is going to be the last one together. Just after 5 am, when it was just my mom awake by his side, my dad simply stopped breathing. My mom said she had just told him he didn’t have to hold on any longer. He could go, and so he did.
I have to admit that when I first got the call yesterday that my dad had taken a turn for the worse and maybe wouldn’t survive the day, I didn’t want to go back to the hospital. It wasn’t that I had just made the three-hour drive back home, it was that I didn’t really want to face it. I wasn’t sure I had the energy or the strength to watch my dad die. But then I knew that whatever I felt didn’t matter. What was real was that the man who spent his life taking care of me and my sisters and my mom would be gone within hours, and I had the privilege to be there by his side. No matter how much it would hurt to see, this was a gift, to say a final goodbye.
I’m thankful my dad was a Christian. He believed that he was headed to a better place and had absolutely no fear of death. I know that made his final days easier for him. And I’m sure he was looking forward to seeing the many people he had lost in his almost 67 years: his own dad who died too early in his 30’s, his mom who suffered from Alzheimer’s, his brothers, his son, his best friend. It must have comforted my mom also, allowing her the strength to tell him to go to the others she believed were waiting for him.
The world lost a wonderful man today. A man with a hearty laugh and a deep love for people and animals and the Lord. A man of strength and honor and commitment. A man who loved my mother and her children as his own. He was my stepfather, but I never thought of him that way. To me he was always my dad. I’m thankful he entered my life so long ago. And I’m thankful I was there when he left so peacefully this morning.
I had a lovely day. Not at all the day I expected, but then I started it with a spontaneous stop and just went with it from there. It’s strange for me how that has been working out lately. I don’t consider myself very spontaneous. Flexible, yes, but I usually feel more secure if I have something of a plan for my time. It’s a comfort thing. I need events to look forward to. Or people to look forward to seeing. It’s probably why working on a school schedule makes sense to me. I know how much time I have for certain tasks and I know how much time I have with certain people and I can adjust myself accordingly. It’s also why I like holidays. It helps divide my year. I can’t imagine not having Easter or Halloween or Christmas to look forward to or plan for. Or all the little ones in between. Maybe that means I’m too much of a time keeper.
I think it has something to do with moving so much in my lifetime. I counted once and it was a ridiculous number–like 19 times. Every four years when I was growing up. You’d think that it would make me more spontaneous, not less. However, there was always an end to things, so maybe I conditioned myself to prepare for it. Count the time left. Prepare for the changes, like packing up and saying goodbye. And try to get as much accomplished as soon as possible. It got progressively harder to believe in the status quo and harder to get attached to things or people. But now, the older I get the more I yearn for stability. Buying a house on my own was a big step toward that for me. Knowing I don’t have to leave it unless I want to gives me a sense of control that I’ve never felt before. I have a place I can settle in to. It’s a strange connection, but it allows me to relax just a little. It lets me feel ok with being a bit spontaneous with my time because I don’t have to go anywhere anytime soon. I’m not saying I won’t ever decide to move again, but if I do, it will be because I want to. I’m thankful for that. And I’m thankful my impulsive decision this morning turned into a pleasurable day.