"Come home as soon as you can," my aunt said, "your dad is back in the hospital and he's on full life support. The doctors says there is nothing more they can do and they won't keep him on life support forever. A decision has to be made."
I knew that phone call was coming. If not that night, the next or sometime in the next month or if we were lucky, maybe sometime next year. Dad had been in and out of the hospital the whole month of December. Four heart attacks in three weeks is simply too much for one body to handle. Especially if that body has endured a life-time of abuse (think: sex, drugs and rock and roll). Dad had been ill for years. It was a miracle he made it this long.
My first selfish thought when I hung up the phone was: At least I got to have Christmas with my husband and kids. I immediately felt like the world's worst daughter... strike that... person. I knelt in prayer, asking Heavenly Father for His magic touch to get me home as soon as possible and pleading for strength. It's a no-brainer that going home to your father on life-support with the expectation of making decisions regarding his future is not the ideal vacation; not a vacation at all. But more than that, I was also going to have to deal with the rest of my family. That is the area where I need even more strength.
I got on a plane January 1, 2011, my father died January 4th and I landed back in England on February 1st. All that happened while I was home is a tale for another day... possibly a tale for several days. For today, I wanted to share something I wrote shortly after coming home.
Home. And everything is very surreal. Among the daily commotion of preparing meals, teaching the children and resting my injured ankle, it’s hard to believe that any of it even happened. It’s like nothing has changed. And yet... everything has.
My grief is wrapped in pain and resentment, in anger. It comes in waves, crashing down on me, rocking my soul, dashing me upon the rocks of unbelievable reality and leaving me raw, wounded, seeping. A thought, a memory, something someone says, an image. It hits, bombarding my senses. All the ambient sounds roar in my ears, my vision blurs, my eyes prick and burn. Warm tears trickle down my suddenly pale cheeks. A soft gasp escapes my lips when I realize I’ve been holding my breath. My lips, my chest, my hands quiver as I struggle to fight the storm descending. Fighting the flood of emotional energy that the dams of real life keep pushing back. The fight seems eternal, never-ending. The loss I am mourning is decades old and yet very present, just waiting for those flood gates to break. But before I know it, it’s over. The gates don’t break, don’t betray me. A trickle of (emotion?) (the river?) might escape, but as of yet, I like to think no one knows of the tsunami that’s (begging) trying to get out (escape). The gates hold, but the storm isn’t over; it’s never replaced by calm. It's not replaced at all, simply out-staged by the chaos that is parenting, living--the day-to-day living that is perpetual dying. The chaos that is this thing called being human, this thing called life. It is a hard thing. A hard place to be. A hard immovable granite mountain that I cannot go around or under or through.
And yet, that is where I lie. Here. Behind the flood gates. Drowning.
Still there are times when the waves peak at dangerous heights and come slamming down on me. My gates still hold, time reinforcing their strength, love sealing up their leaks. Slowly, ever slowly, I'm starting to feel reintegrated; I'm starting to float.