It's been about a week since the news that hit us like a hammer was announced. In that space of time, I have been gifted with being able to take compassion leave from my work and I have packed a bag and spent a few nights at mom and dads. Jodi takes the other nights.
What is it like to live with someone in their last days? Wow. It is a combination of pain, joy, laughter, tears, aching, loneliness, emptiness, privilege, honour.
Yesterday I took dad for a walk - him in a wheelchair and me pushing him. We walked down his street and talked about some of the homes, the landscaping, the municipality and their ditches. We talked about his journey. We talked about his faith. I shared mine.
I told dad, 'I am not mad at God. I am not happy with God. I am not questioning him and I am asking lots of questions. My faith is strong - but my heart is weak. My belief is solid and true, but my body feels empty. I love my amazing God and I love my amazing father who sits in front of me.' Dad just nods and understands and is at peace.
Life is an interesting journey and there are God moments that we miss and ones we only recognize much later and some we see right away. I have been drawn to the footwashing that Jesus experienced and gave. Footwashing makes me uncomfortable - I didn't grow up with it and don't enjoy it very much. However, this week I have been reminded of it - not literally but figuratively.
Many years ago, in the corner of a small room filled with medical students and a medical specialist, dad sat in a small chair beside my bed. I was very ill with ulcerative colitis and was pregnant with my twins. They were going to take some bone marrow from my chest to test it because my iron level was so low. I was scared and intimidated by the students, the doctor and the idea that a needle was going to be shoved into my chest bone. Now, if you know my dad, you know that he might not be that great with blood and medical stuff. He is tough, but does get a little light-headed at stuff like this. But he came to my side. He sat beside me, holding my hand - gripping my hand. The procedure required them to pull down my hospital gown to expose my chest - so now i am embarrassed - for myself and for him. But he gripped my hand and looked me in the eye and held my gaze as they pushed the needle into my chest. The whole room gasped along with me as the pressure momentarily took my breath away. And dad held my hand.
Then there was another hospital room where my son lay - nothing serious - just a giant blood clot on his tongue that had formed overnight after he bit into it playing on the trampoline. I sat with my boy until they said they would suction it off - then i got a bit light-headed - so who is outside the door who says he will take my place? My dad. He took my place because he knew it was hard to watch and he sat with my son and held his hand. (and then got a little light-headed!!)
I always thought I was so privileged to have dad do those things for me - I was so touched. This week I realized something...
As I sat at my dad's feet and washed his legs and feet, as I sat at his feet and helped him with his catheter, as I held his back up as I washed his back, arms and hair - that this WAS being PRIVILEGED in these moments. This is where I was honoured and humbled to be able to do this for him. When dad sat with me in the hospital I was so glad to have him and it was a gift - I realize now that it was an honour and a privilege for him to have been able to help me.
In our servant stance - we gain more than when we receive. It is in giving that we receive.
In the Prayer of Saint Francis:
"O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life."
This is hard - nothing about this is easy - but how amazing is this opportunity to sit at my fathers feet and learn from him. Learn from his grace, his patience, his kindness, his wisdom. The beauty in knowing that he too will soon sit at his Father's feet and learn from his grace, his patience, his kindness and is wisdom.
My dad's greatest desire in these last days are to spend time with family and to share with anyone who walks in, the salvation story of Christ. His desire is that if anything comes out of this experience, is that those who are stumbling; those caught up in hate; those who are experiencing a separation from family; those who are yielding to the financial temptress or the other numerous addictions out there - that they can think twice about where they stand and who they will ultimately stand before. His greatest prayer is that those he loves continue to follow Jesus, find their way back to Jesus, or discover Jesus for the first time.
So I share this with you - to encourage you - to inspire you - to uplift you.
This is hard - nothing about this is easy. Today I found a playlist on Spotify that was called Hymns for Hipsters - cause dad is nothing short of a hipster!! - and I played hymns for him and we sang along. My prayers went up in those songs. Prayers of sadness, prayers of faith, prayers of life extensions. Dad sang. I sang. We may never make the Faith and Life Choirs - but this morning, we were awfully damn good!!
This is hard - nothing about this is easy. But each moment that I get to sit with my dad and do those little things for - is a gift from God and I am honoured to be an active participant in my dad's final walk on this earth. May you feel his extended love and faith through this blog.
My God provides the words... I provide the typing.