Psalm 17:13-14 “I am still confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”
I find myself slipping back into old thoughts, anguish and frustration the past couple days. I wonder if the fog I am trying to look through is a normal part of grief, or if I am being swept up by the depression that threatened my life a few short months ago. Maybe I am just worn out from from trying to be strong through my dad’s death, and trying to “be strong as I wait on the Lord to heal my gut (whatever) and the eating disorder.
My life has been a blur. The past 3 weeks feel like one. Well, one very long week that began September 16, 2013. It was on this day that for the second time in my life I thought “I am an adult.” The first was watching my son get married, but on this, the sixteenth day of September I do not want to be an adult.
The call came minutes before my alarm was set to wake me from my restless slumber to call Hospice to care for my father. Eight o’clock I figured was an appropriate time to make this call. My ring tone “I love the way you love me” shatters the silence, although I am already in and out of sleep and quickly reach for the phone I look at the caller ID “unknown” “shit!” I think as I am pretty sure it is the nursing center calling me. I fear that he has died during the night, and guilt began to crowd my thoughts. First I was concerned that I hadn’t been there, and second that I hadn’t arranged for Hospice the day before so that he could have at least pasted comfortably. Why me? I am going to have the be the bearer of bad news to the whole family. So no matter how small and frail I try to make myself, I am still the go to person. Somehow my weakness is my strength. I think to myself sarcastically that starving does take a great deal of strength. (I guess)
“Yes” I tell the voice on the other end of the phone, “we all agree that it is time to call in Hospice especially if his night was as horrible as it sounds. The second call comes minutes later. “Can we start the Ativan and morphine before you actually meet with the Hospice nurse” The words piercing through the fog of just waking up and my heart at the same time. “Yes” I say, “he deserves to be comfortable.” I wonder for a moment if I am dreaming? I have had dreams like this before. Then I hear some noise from the end of the hallway. Mitch! How could I forget that he had come home yesterday just to hold Bop’s hand one last time. I see him now walking out of his room, bleary eyed in boxers. It is then that I realize with a heavy heart, that this is not a dream. I hear the toilet flush and I ask him what his plans are. “I am going back to bed,” he says as if I am missing the obvious. All the while I am wishing I were still in bed dreaming my reality.
Well, now what? I make the phone call to all my family and a few select friends, including my pastor. I find myself wandering around the house picking up this and that. Pouring another cup of coffee, eat a few bites of cereal, and take my meds. I have a feeling I am going to really need them over the next few days, just when I was wondering if I really needed them at all. Can I face my brother after our phone call that brought me to tears for hours? Am I really the shallow, selfish person that he left me feeling like? I remind myself that I am doing the best I can, and ironically I think out loud “It is well with my soul”, but it still hurts.
I go through the usual debate of call, don’t call my therapist. Is this a clinical emergency, or just part of life that sucks for all of us? I decide to just leave a message. Maybe she will get it, maybe she won’t. She seems like a far away part of my life right now, but I am aware of the eating disorder as I think that this gives me an excuse for not eating. Pitiful! My dad is dying and I am thinking that at least I may drop a few pounds in the process of being with him as he dies, and as I grieve. I tell myself that I deserve to go to the eating disorder since I can’t go to my dad.
I can go to my heavenly father. I need to pray, but am not sure what to pray for, or even how to pray. I sit quietly then begin to pray in the spirit. The Holy Spirit will know what I need and what my dad needs. I listen to my praise music, turning up the music to drown out the sound of my sobbing. I don’t want to wake up Mitch. Like anything can wake up a 21 year old used to living in a frat house?
I am wound and ready to spring out of my skin; wanting to spring out of my current situation. I want to be with Mitch, but let him sleep. I go out or a quick run, pounding the pavement as if it is at fault for my father’s illness and impending death.
I wake Mitch to go back to school. He seems sad and a little unsure of how to deal with the feelings a grief beginning to seep out of his pores. He is torn as he knows he must go back up to school, but wants to be, no needs to be, with his family. Bop could be like this for days even weeks, so I encourage him to go back to school. I know that is what his grandfather would want him to do. We go to lunch first, but I can’t eat. I send him off with tears spilling down my cheeks.
I enter the nursing center relieved to see a few friends there with him, because I was not remotely prepared to see him restless and in obvious distress lifting his arms repetitively trying to breath. I imagine that that is what Jesus felt like as he slowly suffocated on the cross for dad, for me, for us all. Each breath sounded wet and labored. It almost sounds like listening to someone breath from a regulator under the surface of the sea. After a while it becomes oddly comforting. There is still a rhythm of life to it
I made some calls as it became evident that he would be with us maybe a day or two, not weeks. Jerry, his life long friend comes down the hall, and I meet him to tell him that he has rapidly declined since Friday. He cries like a baby. How beautiful it is to see his unashamed love and emotion. Their connection runs long and deep. I cry, I shut down, I cry, I shut down as I watch a parade of my past march through the door. Their faces etched with age, their hair, if they had any was mostly gray, but every eye was misted in tears. I am numb, I am cried out, and I fill the void by taking care of “business”; checking in with nurses, visitors, and signing papers. How should I feel, what should I be doing, and am I doing it right? Whatever the fuck right is in this situation? All I know is I need to do this correctly.
It is loud and crowded in the room when the Hospice nurse arrives. By the way he is nothing like the little old nurse I expected. He is very young, very tan, very gay, very kind, and compassionate as he tells each us to give him permission to go. I look at my dad and wander to rub his head, then turn back. Nope, not yet. He may be ready, but I am not. He tells us, including my mom who decides to come that Dad is indeed in the active process of dying. He will most likely die by day break. I am anxious and irritated. Part of me wants everyone to get the fuck out so I can be with my daddy. Instead I wander outside. How can this be? It is a beautiful fall day. I stand on the hillside that over looks the village that my dad dearly loved, and realize that life is going on all around me. Did I expect the world to stop and pause because my dad was dying? I pull my sweater closed around my waist letting it envelop me as it wraps over itself. I am strangely comforted feeling as physically frail as I feel emotionally. I begin to scold myself for going there, but than think “fuck off “my dad is dying I will feel this way if I want to, and if the eating disorder wants to show up to ease my emotional pain, fine with me, and the two us make the slow lonely walk back to his room.