HOW OUR BLOG BEGAN, in AUGUST 2010: As many of you know, Phil has been struggling with a very complex series of neurological issues for about 5 years. This past spring, the issues became especially intense as a result of an unexpected cognitive decline and a fall on May 15th that resulted in a head injury and further decline. And then, on July 16th things catapulted to unbelievable, as Phil suffered from a severe "electrical storm" in his brain that essentially created a status of brain death for two full days. Inexplicably, the very morning that neurologists and other medical team members were planning removal of life support, Phil began breathing on his own and his brain waves returned to a stable, while still abnormal, level. Since then, each day has been a unique journey. And while he and his body continue to demonstrate a will and capacity to live, he continues to have severe deficits and it is quite uncertain as to the path he will take. As loved ones close in can attest to, it has been tricky to keep up emotionally with all of his changes, and provide the needed support. We can only imagine the hard work Phil has gone through as his brain has taken him through such roller coaster experiences. It is our goal here to keep family and close friends apprised of Phil's ongoing story, and to build connections that honor him.

AND THEN, SEPTEMBER 11, 2010....Dad's remarkable journey alongside us culminated in a gentle, generous death.

And so, my goal here now as his daughter is simply this: to record snippets...pieces of his life that my memory offers back to me, pieces of myself as I learn to live without a dad. I hope all who meander by find life, and hope, and peace.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

ahhh...the day is here

oh my goodness.

i'm in a plane headed east.  in just a couple hours tim and i will land in washington d.c. -- truly, the place that we Philip Bruces have soundly decided is HOME.  which is not easy to do, as a military family, to name the place to house our roots.

i could not be more excited that dad's final resting place is in the nation's capital.  after all, he's the one that etched the truest form of patriotism into our familial heart. 

and further: for his body to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery, amongst the sea of men and women who have given themselves to America.  WOW.  takes my breath away.

and yet further: to be an observer of the greatest honors a country can bestow one of their fallen

Friday, November 12, 2010

don't love what i see

ok, so in re-reading my last two posts, i gotta say i'm not loving where this is going.

somehow, dad, i thought i'd always be able to keep this space all about you.  yes, my presence, my signature sense of things, is allowable here, sure, but only as a medium to show people the kind of man you are (pre 9-11) / were (post 9-11).  but it's weird, at least for me, how the "grief process"  -- i still prefer the word "process" over "grief"; who wants to grieve? -- it somehow becomes more about me than you.  how i'm feeling, what you meant to me as a dad, what it means to be here without you.

i remember when grandpa died, and i couldn't do a thing with or for myself -- no process, all grief.  it wasn't cool, how i would spontaneously burst into silent, desperate tears when a tender thought of him crossed my heart -- but at least i didn't have to drag myself through the self-analysis that your death, or rather, my place in your death, seems to be bringing before me.  they say you can't run grief's show.


well, dad, it was 2 months ago tonight that you breathed your last.  hope it wasn't painful or too hard.  seemed pretty workable to me, what your body was asking you to do as you passed.  certainly, it was nothing like what life had asked of you in the weeks and months, maybe even years, leading up to your death.  i remember i wrote that it was a gentle death, complete with your signature twinkle.  it was also kinda open-minded, just like you seemed gone, then you weren't, then maybe it's now, then i guess not  no, not just yet.....................the breaths kept coming, even when we thought surely this one was the last.  even laura, our hospice nurse, waited five minutes to call your time of death because she wanted to be sure.  your final breaths were, well, remarkably flexible.  just like you.  whew.  people die the way they live, i've come to say.

sister cheryl was the one who checked in with me today.  funny, how aware she seems to be of the dates and the times.  and how clueless i am.  she says it took her weeks to get through a saturday night without reliving pieces of your passing.  me -- symbolic dates kinda sneak up on me, they're haphazard and arrive without fanfare.  i'll be one of those post-stroke patients who is never fully oriented, no matter how much self-insight i display! 

i hope cheryl never stops checking in on your anniversary dates.

well, dad, we miss you.  that much is clear.  and, as anxious as i am about being in a "good place" when we put your body to rest a week from monday,  i am sure looking forward to experiencing the honor of your resting place.  and seeing your beautiful flag-covered casket once again.  you make me so proud.  truly you do.

hope you're finding heaven to be as delightful a place as everyone envisions it to be.
always, k.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

a little word looms large

so, here's the post i placed friday night into  love the peppy way i talk around the utter fatigue that grief brings?  me too! 

as i wrote and edited, one thing that i thought carefully about is the phrase at the end:  "as i rebuild my spirit in the wake of my father's death..."  i considered two things:  one, am i overdoing it, to suggest that one's spirit falls in disrepair after sustaining the death process with a loved one?  nah, don't think so.  not in my case, anyway.  the second:  what does the term "wake" really mean?  and does it fit here?  so here's what i learned about the different nuances of the word (complements of

WAKE: (n) 1-a watching, for some solemn purpose; 2-a vigil by the body of a dead person before burial, often involving feasting or merrymaking; 3-the state of being awake.

seems to me there's some paradoxical stuff going on here.  one, that a solemn purpose (watching over the body of a dead person) would involve a party; and two, that the opposing concepts of "awake" and "dead" would be intertwined in the same word.  makes me think of dad's spirit: when it was all said and done, his death process likely brought to him both awakening and merrymaking. 

yes, in some odd way i think the word is a perfect fit -- and hidden within it must  be some keys to the resolving of that utter fatigue.  a little bit of fun, anyone?  ahhhh, for sure, when the proper time has passed.


Interesting.  Tonight I ran across a journal I'd started on my birthday two years ago.  Apparently, I was preparing a year in advance for the beginning of a new decade.  I love to take time every so often (usually at New Years -- my favorite holiday) to step back and take a look at the global picture of my life: what's working, what's not, what I value, what I don't.  I love to get a visual picture of what I'm hoping for, so I know what to work toward.  The end of one era and the beginning of another can be especially delightful.  So...what better time to take stock in things than a year before the "expiration date" of a great decade?!  At least that must be what I was thinking that night as I placed my thoughts on the page:

My 20's:  I created and established the adult me. 
My 30's:  I discovered and labored within my life work.
My 40's: FREEDOM and JOY ----- and lots and lots of FUN !  (I have one year to figure this out.)

Ok, so I'm now one year behind schedule.  Not bad. 

Freedom and Joy, actually, are always with me.  They define the deepest part of who I am (thanks to all that hard work in my 20's).  But -- FUN?!?  Even worse --- LOTS AND LOTS of fun?!?  What planet was I on?  What foreign substance was coursing through my veins? 

Tonight, as my eyes arrive at that simple birthday wish of two years ago, I feel the Grief Haze heavy over me: I'm reading a language I studied as a kid and I can't quite place the word.   

F - U - N ?    
"F" as in Frank, "U" as in Underwear, "N" as in Nancy?    

What exactly is it?  A person?  A place?  A thing?  A feeling?  An idea? And what does it have to do with me?  Or my future?  Did I really want it?  Think I needed it?  Deserved it?  Nothing better to do with my time?  My heart?  My life?

The calendar on the corner of my computer catches my eye.  It's Friday.  Count the weeks: October 22nd, one week.  October 15th, two weeks.  October 8th, three; October 1st, four.  September 24th, five weeks; September 17th, six; September 10, seven.  Seven weeks ago tonight, Dad had one day left to live.  Seven weeks ago tonight, my sister had just flown in from Canada and we were soaking up our father, knowing our time together was coming to a close.   Birthday wishes?  Who would want them now?  Fun?  I couldn't think of anything more frivolous if you paid me a million bucks.  Lots and lots of fun? Ok now we've entered the realm of the obcene.

Could it really have been me that night, wishing for an abundance of such an innocent, idealistic, unneccesary 3 letter word?!?  A woman all of 38 years of age?  Seems like something an eager adolescent would ask for, not some well-established, mature, enlightened adult.  Could this really be the same woman who had, for countless hours and days of each year of her life, been brave to touch and tackle so many grown-up things?  Did she really fall in love with the man of her dreams?  Figure out how to stay permanently and gloriously in love with the man of her reality?  Start, re-start, and finally finish schooling?  Start a business?  Keep a business? Nurture friendships?  Build a home?  Care for her beloved Grandfather as he died a slow and careful death?  Help her baby brothers grow to become amazing young men?  Follow the antics of five nephews, one neice, no two, no three, make that eight adorable neices and nine precious nephews; with more who are sure to join the fray?

This woman's been to the moon and back, in her own unique and marvelous way.  So why would she now, nearly two full decades after her big adult life began, want to capture something so very very small?  How did she find the place inside herself to wish for it?  From whence did that youthful energy and ambition arise? 

Actually, to tell you the truth, I can't exactly remember.  I don't remember why.  And I certainly don't remember how.  But I think I can wager a guess.  I think my yearning for that simple, three-lettered something has everything to do with being a kid again.  Because living large and all grown up isn't all there is to life.  Sure, I wouldn't want to give up my home, my work, my friends, my memories with my Grandpa, those awesome years with my brothers -- and for sure, you couldn't pry that priceless husband of mine from my heart if you tried.  But...I can only be an adult, a responsible, reasonable adult, for so many years on end before childhood comes knocking at my door once more.  I don't mind the heavy decisions and the gut wrenching sacrifices that brave adulthood brings.  In fact, I see them as a privilege and a gift.  But it's those blasted grown-up expectations of others and myself; its' those responsibilities and commitments that come because I didn't think to dig a little deeper.  Life doesn't have to be complicated.  No need for grandiose.  Just a simple soaking up of life.  To see the happy moments and linger there for just an extra moment or two. 

As I gradually rebuild my spirit in the wake of my father's death, I'm sure I'll be ready once again.  Maybe not this month, maybe not next year.  But when the proper time has passed (and surely before the next decade rolls around) my youthful ambition will return.  And then I'll be READY.  Ready for lots, and lots, of pure and simple, soul-refreshing FUN.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

FOR MY VISITORS AND FRIENDS:  Thanks for reading my post!  So, I'd love to hear about you.  What do you feel like you've lost?  What do you hope will return?  How long do you think it might take? 

p.s. tonight is the last time i get to say "last month my dad died."  from here forward, his death becomes, increasingly, a thing of the past.  funny how even the littlest of things can require one to work at letting go...ready or not.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

a whole new world arrives at my door

this week i stumbled onto a new community that has already meant the world to me.  it's a place built for children who are learning to live with loss.  specifically, the loss of a brother, sister, parent, grandparent, or other key person who played a crucial caregiving role in their life.   drownings, alcoholism, heart attacks, suicides, car accidents, death.  death, death, and more death.  all these tender spirits who have sustained the crazy-heavy blow of loss.  Not just any loss, mind you, but loss of the one they relied upon for all of the basics of their life: food, clothing, shelter, love.  or in some cases, it is actually a cocktail of loss.  take one of my new friends for example:  at 13 she lost her grandfather who took care of her, because at 5 she lost her father, and at 4 she lost her mother. 

so many awful stories.  so much pain and sadness.  and yet, to spend time there is to feel this oddest lifting of the spirit.  when i'm there i find my insides fill themselves with hope, with goodness, with fun.  hard to imagine isn't it?  i guess you gotta see it to believe it.

its the online community of a not-for-profit group that puts on camps for children who are grieving.  pretty cool, what this organization has created.  and how it helps those kids. and their parents.  and the volunteers.  and me.

it's inspirational, in the largest sense of the word, to connect with these precious kids and young adults. to learn from them how to balance the past in all its frail glory into the future with its endless demands of growth.  they gather themselves together, and they do it.  they tackle their futures,  those countless big, first-time grown up things:  they graduate from high school, attend their first class at college, collect new boyfriends, buy new houses, walk down the aisle. birth their first child.  each and every new task that life brings to them, they do without their father.  or their mother.  or both.  their courage empowers me as i begin  to craft my dad-less frame of life.  their friendship humbles me.


not only have i started "friending" people, and creating updates and commenting on the forums and posting cool photos, but i've fleshed out my profile and created an awesome memorial page for dad (if i do say so myself).  and what's more, i've found a whole new way to honor dad.  i've begun to blog.  and as i write, i find myself almost supernaturally filtering my thoughts and feelings in a way that allows me so soon in my grief to avail myself to a kid who might be able to learn from the story i have to tell. it's the most remarkable thing.   i'm speaking honestly.  yes.  i'm honest, vulnerable, raw.  but the me that finds itself on the page is a PG version of me.  it's the same me that found her voice here, but its a gentler, softer me.  

wait.  you don't feel the wonder of this gift that has found its way into my lap?  well, then -- perhaps you've never stared grief between its beady eyes. 

grief, i am sad to discover, is a twisted, unwieldy beast.  it doesn't surrender itself to chirpy wishes or soften when offered a vanilla-flavored dose of vague sentamentality.  it refuses even to bend itself to a heartfelt desire to remember the dead through a pure and simple lens of kindness.  oh no.  grief is not generous, steadfast or warm.  it is a fickle friend, at best; at worst, it is that enemy you must keep closer than a friend. 

so now do you see the beauty of this thing?  i have found another safe place to share my pain.  as i enter the world of these courageous children and teens, i find myself able to use my words to connect.  i don't have to water down the cold, cruel facts of my heart and thus weaken my sense of the truth.  my spirit, on a path all its own, is softening the message to match the heart of my intended audience.  and because it is, i am free to fully connect with them.  my ugly scruffy grief, when brought to the place where children live, is willing to take a gentler stance.  all brutality is set aside as i paint for them pictures of my father.  and me as his daughter.  thank you, grief.  you nasty tender bastard, you.

if i've learned anything from my arcadia families and all my precious neices and nephews, i've learned that kids must be given the truth in a way that nurtures their unformed curves.  their tender developing selves cannot absorb a truth in a form that crushes or cripples.  Our imperfect stories -- yes, even pieces of our darkest, saddest stories, can and should be given to our children as humble gifts of love, but they can only be delivered in the best possible way.  life's hardest lessons colored in gentle, lighter, warmer shades of the harsh, original hue.  of course.  that's where we get baby blue.  and pastel pink.  and lavendar. and lemondrop yellow, and seafoam green.

*              *               *                *                *

so what to do with this space here?  well, perhaps, in order to keep this as my permanent dad memorybook, i'll reprint my Hello Grief posts here.  and perhaps, in keeping with the me that flows like an extension of my body the moment i sit down at this screen,  i'll attach a prefix or a postscript for you.  if i can, i'll add an unfiltered, true-blue take on the topics i'm tackling for myself and those brave souls in my new young world. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

what a great place this is

wow!!  what a great place this is.

over the past weeks, i have been collecting multiple ways to stay "tapped in" to dad and the amazing process of living within his life and death story. 

* Grief Share (a church-run support group that friend jen introduced me to.  which, by the way is very cool in that it is in the back office of a church run coffee house.  never knew that coffee houses had back offices complete with sofas, dvd players, and tissues for tears.  as if coffee houses needed another reason to be cool!)

* Books (still loving the two i found during my quiet days right after dad's passing: Awakening from Grief, by john welshons and A Beautiful Death, by cheryl eckl.  And have spent a few moments in sister cheryl's all-time fav, Heaven, by randy alcorn)

* Tim (turns out, he's got sadness issues of his own to muscle his way through, as a result of his love and care for dad during his final days)

* Dinner Dates with dear friends (whether half the night is all about dad, or i receive just the briefest moment of dad-specific care as a friend imagines my months of just can't beat surrounding yourself with people you love who made tough choices to walk through loss alongside you)

* Mom and Me, at our new ESL -- that's English-as-a-Second-Language -- class at her community church (ok, dad, this one's not directly about you....but i miss working with mom to tackle your story.  so, in your absence, here's something that i just know you would have been so supportive of.  you always got excited when you thought of things that mom would be so good at doing.  which was always held her in such high esteem!  as a young kid, about 5 or 6 it seems, i actually felt sorry for you -- i had this sinking feeling you just weren't the sharpest tool in the shed.  we can say this one's got YOU written all over it, were always contrasting mom's brilliance with your own, well, not-so-shiny skill sets.  it was spelling, and english, i think, that did you in.  course within about 7 or 8 years i began to see all that flying of the planes, and all those shimmery buttons on your mess dress uniform, as evidence to the contrary.  what a clever way to help your kids admire their mother!! and -- outside of your design -- in time, it helped your kids come to admire their father, too.)

Tonight, I find myself back here. 
Here, at the place where i went each night to clear my heart in preparation for what lay ahead when i awoke again to a new dad day.  the past several weeks, i've not come to visit.  i guess my heart was spinning in other directions and it didn't seem right to bring it back to relive the details of dad's passing.  but tonight, i come to check just one small thing and before i know it, i'm back.  not fully immersed, but fully partially immersed.  it's September 11th, and September 17th, and the 5 posts in between, that fully partially capture me.  i don't need to relive my sensations (i'm not that very far removed yet) and i don't need to comb the place for new insights (i'm still stumbling over the ones that are already staring me down).  even after hanging out here for an hour or so, i guess i still don't think i need to be here tonight.  But....i must say...MAN IS IT NICE TO BE HERE AGAIN!!! 

i'm kinda surprised:  i'm not reliving the pain, i'm reliving the love.  maybe someday i'll take the time to get back into the heartache etched in all my many words.  but tonight...what amazes me is the love. 

wow.  i remember again why those impossible days weren't unliveable.  the connections made here were powerful.  sustaining.  God's love passed through His people's online presence.  karli, jen, gail, cheryl, D, jb, beth, and so so so  many other good kind souls.  107 comments all told.  pretty wild-cool.

ahhh, i love how God, how He lets life advance, and new things take hold.  new, big things that touch us all...squishy-techy things like blogs and facebook love.  and new, medium-sized things that touch a few.  like gifted authors, and coffee house secret spots, and ESL.  and new, small things -- big things -- that touch just me. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

i get a lot more than just coffee tonight

okay so, dad, it's been two weeks and sixteen minutes since your time of death was announced.


i'm glad we're not burying your body until November.  gives us time to adapt, in stages.  and how unbelievably grateful i am that we can honor you at arlington national cemetery.  our nation's capital, the place our whole family feels is a bit like home.

*          *          *          *          *

tonight i'm sitting at my friend's christian-ish coffee shop, elevate.  her young friend nate is singing the blues on the coffee shop stage.  this one song has four lines, i think, or maybe it's actually three, do they call them stanzas? -- that just keep repeating themselves, over and over and over and over.  which is nice for me because eventually the words cut through the fog and i begin to hear what's being said.  and then i discover i like what's being said.  and then i get to write it down.  and then i get to hear it again.  by the time nate's moved on, i know what it is about the words that work for me tonight.  repetition is nice that way, it buys you time.

what am i supposed to say
when the best of me was always you

what am i supposed to do
when i'm all choked up and you're ok

i'm barely breathin'
i just pray to a God i'm not quite believin'

i know the song is about breaking up, a guy and a girl, and i'm not sure what's going on with the praying / not quite believing combo.    but it comes over me, tonight, that these are the sensations of loss.  not all of them, for sure, but some of them.  and loss, in its many forms, always sings a similar sad tune.  lovers. dads. a child, a childhood dog, a lifelong friend.  the strands of loss are universal, i suppose it could be said.

and while the words are not a perfect mirror for me tonight, since i get to hear them over and over and over again, i begin to love the chance i've been given to contemplate the parts that reflect the bits and pieces.

some of my best was embodied in you, dad.
the senseless crying sessions have started, dad, even when i know full well you're more than ok.
ok so yeah sometimes with the crazy tears, they do have a way of getting in the way of the breathing. 
and yeah, i'm not quite sure what's going on with the praying / not quite believing combo, but i'm sure i could do
more of the one and less of the other.

goodnight, dad.
goonight, friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010

SEPTEMBER 17: a fitting tribute to a godly man

oh my goodness. 

how to summarize the life of a man in a service that contains just sixty minutes of time?  how to summarize those sixty minutes here?

*               *              *               *               *

ok so i'm listening to daniel's audio recording of dad's service to try to snag a piece of it to share with you.  to get some sort of focus, some sort of place to begin.

i'm following along with pastor ron's warm welcome, then pastor short's inspired opening prayer.  so far, so good.  i'm catching a sense of where i might want to go.  once daniel can show me how to rewind his fancy program, i'll be able to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

and then, pastor short's prayer is over.  and the long pause begins.  at first i'm thinking we've arrived at the obvious, necessary quiet as one speaker steps away and the next walks forward to begin.  but the long pause continues.  and continues.  and continues.  i notice the silence gradually, as at first i'm filled with my meandering thoughts, this new insight i'm discovering as i consider what i've just heard, in these moments that have passed.  poetry is hidden within every heartfelt effort to honor a man.   in time the silence overtakes my thoughts and a sense of immediacy strikes.  i speak to my mind, come on karen!  you were there!  you can do this!  remember....what comes after the prayer?

and now i remember.  the air force honor guard.  and all of a sudden, it's happening again, in real time in my mind, as the silence continues.

i see eight men march up the center aisle of the chapel, slowly, heads held high. their steps are crisp, their uniforms a picture of perfection.  15 steps and they arrive at the front on the chapel.  in a single smooth motion all eight men stop.  then turn to their left.  five steps more and they are at the foot of dad's casket.  the four airmen on the right begin their steps to align themselves behind dad's casket.  the four on the left begin their steps to align themselves in front of dad's casket.  somehow, my mind has skipped a beat: now all eight are facing dad's casket. it happened, dreamlike, through some sort of secret language these men share; with one simple, crisp command each of them know how to move their legs, their torsos, their arms, ther hands.  and what about their heads?  well their heads, they never move.  but always they are balanced beautifully, setting the tone of their bodies' entire posture: not forward, not back, not up not down.  just perfectly centered.  it's the only message the military knows how to send: singular focus, never waver, always calm, always sure.  dignity, respect.  awareness, gratitude for those who have come before.  faithfulness to their fallen.

and now the flag.  they pick it up and begin the most elaborate ceremony i've ever witnessed in my life.  as a child, dad taught me and my sister this cool folding thing.  we folded anything we could get our hands on this way. although sheets and towels are always fair game, my baby doll blankets work best for my little fingers.  and, clearly, most worthy of the time it takes to do it right.  i love to guess at the perfect place to create the folds so that my finished product is always the proper size.  and then creating the triangle:  once i get the first fold right, the rest is easy.  slow down, i say to myself, and be a little more careful.  never rush or it will look sloppy in the end.  flip over, flip up, flip over, flip down.  no matter how slowly i go, this part is always over too soon.  i think it's really my favorite part.  ok, looks like i've done it right so far, i have a perfect triangle without a single lump.  and now i tuck the blanket's excess edge back into my bundle.  how is it that there's this perfect little slot that fits just right the length of the blanket i need to tuck away?  keep it slow...if i speed up now, i'll just have to pull it out and start the tuck again.  i learn to pull and straighten kind of in one smooth motion, so the edges are sure to lay flat.  and now, to top it off, i place my hands, one on top of my triangle, one on the bottom, and i just kinda pat it.  pat it here, pat it there.  and then....well then, i'm off.  off to my next girlish adventure.  i know this thing is special, this cool folding thing that dad's taught me and my sister to do.  and every time i do it, i do it purposefully, carefully.  sometimes i feel impatient inside myself, because it's not like me to be slow doing anything.  but somehow, i know it's just the way it's done.  but now, i'm finished and i'm ready to run.  i never stop to ask dad why to be slow.  and why a perfectly smooth triangular bundle is so significant. 

now i know why.  because it becomes the most beautiful, precious gift the military knows to give the widow of a man who has has served his country well.  words cannot describe.  my eyes can only shed their tears.

and now i hear the tap of the shoes as the airmen turn and march out the door.  click, click, click, click.

and now the guns, saluting dad.  one.  two.  three. 

and now the trumpet begins.

i sing in my heart the words that closed every girl scout meeting i had as a child:

Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the hills,
from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

and now, the celebration service begins.

*               *              *               *               *

whew.  if we could have all put the day on pause, we would have, each of us, right then and there.  and we would have gone home, kissed the ones we love, and thanked the good Lord for a day well done. 

perhaps that's what we'll do tonight.

all is well, safely rest.

love forever,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

hospice asks some really cool questions

the first morning after we placed dad in hospice, i woke up in a frantic place.  i knew i needed to get to dad fast.  once i saw him safe and secure at the ryan house, i figured i would be able to regroup and keep my already elevated level of panic from escalating out of control.  (remember the word i used to describe a daughter helping to take her father away from intervention settings and into hospice?  DAUNTING.)

so as soon as tim and i get in the room, i immediately feel better.  but not all the way better.  it's a lot, to force your body back into a calm, cool rhythm after waking up to those crazy anxiety sensations.  so i sit down, we say hey to dad.  he's able to vocalize, but he's not able to follow conversation clearly.  so i'm still feeling uneasy, not sure how to settle in. 

then i look at dad's bedside tray.  i discover one of many ways the ryan house tells their patients and their families that they care: the form they place on a bulletin board in every patient's room for all the staff to read.  i grab a pen, and get started.  it isn't long before i find my rhythm.  a gentle way to begin the process of re-visiting the things i love about this man who will soon be leaving me behind.

by the time i've come to the end of the page, i see him clearly again. he isn't just this sad, sad, suffering soul.  he isn't someone who has to be defined by his physical diminishment.  he isn't a head injury. or a dementia patient.  or, even, a fascinating medical mystery.  he is my dad.  a man who loves marie calendar pies and combs his hair to the side.  this is, i think, the moment when i realize my very sick father has this unstoppable, signature sparkle. all of a sudden it's something i deeply hope for: that his twinkly smile stays until the end.  it's been awhile since i've hoped for something so simple.

i soak up this crucial thing i'm doing here beside dad as the moments pass.  and my body begins to return to its normal place.  in trying to capture dad, line by line, for all the people who will give him love and care during the last days of his life, i begin the process of entrusting him, and us, to them.  and i begin to capture the countless images i have of my father, not just how he is right now, but for who he's always been.  it's one more step in this long, arduous goodbye. 

i wouldn't change a thing.

*          *          *          *           *

goodnight and please pray that the service tomorrow honors dad.  and that all who attend can capture some little piece of his life story, a piece that helps them pull a little more goodness out of life.

mary, vince, donna, sandi, karl, rob, gail, mike ... thanks for traveling so far. you love us so well!!!

xoxoxox always

oh. one more thing.  he sparkled during his entire two week stay.

it's time to love on the brother

so tonight i find myself dubbing him the Death Expert.

hmmm, perhaps this is a complement for him, perhaps not so much.  but in my short time in his book  Awakening From Grief, i've found enough conversation starters to last us the rest of the week.  (not to mention that crazy book about dragons and princesses and holy grails -- oh and many thanks to mom rice, susan, karli, jb, and jen for meeting me in the castle, or was it the dungeon?  it was so nice to have your thoughts appear throughout the day!)

Since we went long last night, let's get right to the point today!

The guy's name is JOHN E. WELSONS.  For 25 years he has been counseling, teaching and lecturing about life's losses.  it seems he's trained with really smart people, one of whom is Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (whoever she is).  that's enough for me; i'm sold: Death Expert seems about right to me.

anyway, JB, brother jonathan bruce, this one's for you! i loved your honesty in your comment response the other day so i'll bring it in to start off the conversation:
I can definitely relate to the desire to make the grieving process sterile and speedy. During the past week or so, I have found myself "annoyed" with the fact that dad had to pass just a couple weeks into an insanely busy first semester of engineering school. I stare at a physics problem for too long and before I know it, my mind wanders back to the mountains of GA, with dad as a highlight in every scene. As I struggle with the inconveniences of life, I quickly feel sheepishness and like a total selfish jerk. Obviously, there were eternal timelines in place here and I need to embrace "grief's primative rawness" and let it work it's course. Sometimes life happens quickly, but most often, it takes place gradually over time - like a well aged wine or cheese.
That's good stuff brother!!!  well written (always) and oh so honest.  the honest places are where we can really roll up our sleeves and get some stuff figured out.  with a little help from Mr. Death Expert himself.  tim and i discovered this little passage over breakfast this morning, and man did it bring up interesting conversation between us!  hope it will for all of us here too:

 Our cultural conditioning has been to close our hearts when we experience "emotional overload".....when we close our hearts just when we most need them to be open, we stop the flow of love just when we need it the most.  And we don't even realize that we're doing it!

The result is that we become numb.  We feel as if just beneath the surface lies this terrifying, raging, monstrous beast of feelings that will devour and obliterate us if we so much as let one claw out of the cage.  We sit on our feelings like a gargoyle guarding the gates of hell.  We shove them down and shove them down because we're afraid they'll destroy and overwhelm us.  We're afraid there's no way out.
(ok well the gargoyles guarding those gates are pretty cool too)

the way out is the way find the place in ourselves that watches the process like a impassive find that tiny little part of our awareness that sees everything we go through without judgement, sometimes with bemusement.  It's that part of us that sees our relief when a loved one has died after a long debilitating illness...the part of us that sees our guilt about feeling relief....the part that wants laugh just at the moment we are most angry. That's the part of our awareness with which we must become more familiar, which we must learn to trust.  That's the part of ourselves that can see it all without panic. 
So , bro...i feel your pain, whether its a sense of relief or annoyance.  what do you think of this guy's advice?   what would you say to yourself if you were an IMPASSIVE OBSERVER -- a type of neutral third party -- ready without judgement to give yourself some advice before your Dad Weekend begins? 

(that's you, dear reader!!)

stepping outside yourself to become an IMPASSIVE OBSERVER is one way to work through grief.  have you ever tried it?  any other strategies you'd like to recommend?  personal stories welcome!!!  


tomorrow mom's family arrives, auntie sandi and auntie donna.  quite excited for this!
xoxo k.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

your story, or mine? ok, well, how about both?!

ok, so tonight's thoughts are a bit in the realm of the abstract.

sorry, that's what happens when i have two full days to do nothing but whatever strikes my fancy.  (never occurs to me to tackle a to-do list when i have an unscripted day before me.)

what i'm contemplating is the idea of a QUEST.  grab a comfy chair and kick up your feet.  this could take awhile.

*           *            *          *          *

yesterday i picked up this book entitled How to Read Literature Like a Professor.  i want to review it and perhaps give a copy as a christmas gift to my neighbor brien, who teaches junior high language arts. (i think of him as a type of professor, as he's a true connoisseur of classic literature. read his blog and see what i mean!)  as my ability to absorb intelligent literature is fairly limited -- perhaps i should give the book to him now and then for christmas, ask him to write me a summary of what the author is trying to say.

but, i'm all for giving it a go.  the first chapter is entitled "every trip is a quest (except when it's not)".  off and on all day, i've been chewing on what it has to say.  i find myself pausing at what i've read because i feel there's some hidden way to use this new information to add perspective to dad's passing.  i believe i may do this for awhile.

he's trying to teach his readers that many stories are built to be a QUEST TALE.  and that, structurally speaking, they all consist of the same basic things: a knight, a dangerous road, a Holy Grail, at least one dragon, one evil knight, one princess.  i get it, these grand old stories.  but then he asks me to contemplate the fact that these things are often metaphorical, cloaked in unfamiliar garb.  like: the knight can be a guy next door; a dangerous road, the path from his house to the corner Circle K; the Holy Grail, a loaf of Wonder Bread; the dragon, a 1968 muscle car.  and so on.  i'm stretching.  but i like the resulting intelligent feeling that comes over me as it starts to sink in. 

but then he kinda blows my mind.  and gets me thinking about my life with dad these past months.  he says (and i quote)
the real reason for a quest never involves the stated reason.  in fact, more often than not, the quester fails at the stated task.  so, why do they go and why do we care?  they go because of the stated task, mistakenly believing that it is their real mission.  we know, however, that their quest is educational.  they don't know enough about the only subject that really matters:  themselves.  The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge. that's why questers are so often young, inexperienced, immature, sheltered.  forty-five year old men either have self-knowledge or they're never going to get it, while your average sixteen-to-seventeen-year-old kid is likely to have a long way to go in the self-knowledge department.
Whew.  ok i'm still trying to figure out exactly what a quest is, and how an old car can be a dragon.  but since professors usually know what they're talking about, i'm inclined to believe him.  if he says a quest is NOT about the stated reason, then it probably isn't. 

so where does that leave me with my dad?  it begins to dawn on me, slowly, today that

perhaps his journey through death
is not completely as it seems.

*           *            *          *          *

all of a sudden, i see myself as an average sixteen year old kid.  i'm at the ryan house, peeking my head out into the hallway anytime i see a gurney go by.  i'm an overgrown adolescent as i pass by dad's roommates' doorways, straining to see the various forms that "almost dead" can take.

*           *            *          *          *

someone along the way mentioned that dad gave to us even in his death.  i was a bit taken aback by that statement at the time, as the past months have seemed to be a lot about what i and my family have given to him.  perhaps in many ways, though, this idea holds more truth than i know.

take even just his extended presence in a home for the dying.  was it just for him to have the space and time, the luxury, to die in peace?  or was it, also, somehow, a bit about me?  did dad somehow know that his daughter needed to surround herself with death  in order to accept it with grace and joy? 

*           *            *          *          *


six years ago i specifically chose to actively participate in my grandfather's end of life care (who by the way, is a man so like my father that i loved him dearly from day one).  i did this in part, yes, as a way to share my love and skills with him.  but, also i wanted to walk through this time with him.  i had this sense that i was ready to experience death, that i would come to peace with one of life's deepest strains.  to this end, i dove right in and started strong.  i thrived in the privilege of assisting him with all his daily needs: dressing, bathing, toileting, eating, and beyond. but, alas, this place of warmth and joy was not to last.  when it came time for grandpa to die, during his last two weeks on earth, i had to step aside.  my heart was literally breaking and i could take it no more.  just as i specifically chose to place myself in his everyday life, so i consciously chose to remove myself.  one day, coming to visit him at his hospice location, i looked into his eyes and no longer saw him there.  i knew immediately that this visit would be my last.  i knew i would not return to him until he was taken from me.  so much for the embracing of the death and dying process.  imagine my dismay to discover that not only was it was acutely painful and sad, but it was also totally and completely impossible for me to bear.  there was no way to create meaning, purpose, context.  i felt no growth, no maturing. just deep and unretractable sorrow.  the active pain lasted for many, many months, and i never gained that perspective that i had so innocently thought i could choose.

fastforward just six short years.  so what do i do, now that dad is in my mom's and my care, and clearly he is dying?  no one i love has died since grandpa.  so no new development here.  i just might be that 45 year old man who's never gonna get it.  but fortunately, i know this journey, this quest, is not about me, but only what i can do for dad.  as long as my heart and mind don't break, dad, i am there for you.  i'm here to help you finish strong and fully loved.

but as i look at myself now, wandering around and about the hallways of the ryan house, i wonder.  did dad, forever the giver, somehow make parts of his dying story all about me? 

the thought humbles me.  i want to reject the idea, even the very sound of it.  but as certain details run through my memory, i realize this could be the truth.  in living through dad's quest, with each and every gift he gives to me -- a conversation here, a sudden look of recognition and delight there, smiles, sparkles, tears -- gradually i change.  i begin to experience the closing out of life in an entirely new way. fitting. as it should be. timely. purposeful. beautiful. painful, yes, but very right. and wholesome, and good.  what a gift, this growth, this knowledge of all that death can be. 

all of a sudden, i'm no longer the kid who can't get enough of death.  or the old guy who can't soak up anything new.  perhaps i've simply shifted to a better version of the me i've always been. at least when it comes to the part about the dying.

*           *            *          *          *

ok, so i'm still not quite sure about where the princess and the evil knight come in.  or how it is that dragons can arrive on the scene dressed as a car.  but, true to form, i think the gifted professor would say that i'm on the right track. even if i'm not quite there.

*           *            *          *          *

if i'm going to keep writing i've got to share the floor a bit more than i have so far!  now that my pressing need to share the unfolding details of dad's story has passed along with him,  i'd love to become more of a conversation starter.  

with this in mind, yesterday i checked in with karli, our most free-spirited commenter to date (and boy do i love her for the way she shares her heart!).  she told me that she's been holding back, out of love for me and respect for my dad -- and thought that others may also be.  well dad and i are ready to take you on! 

so perhaps i'll do as my uncle mike suggests, and end every post with a question.  he says it will help you bring your own life experiences to the table.  so here goes:

(if i can enter this abstract world of really smart readers, so can you!)

can you conjure up any quick examples of other real-life things that fit some aspect of THE QUEST? 

dangerous roads? 
holy grails? 

something from your own life -- or something made up, from your fast-moving imagination?  i'd love to hear what can be learned on that creepy scary road, or while slaying that awful dragon.

thanks for giving of yourself.
xoxo k.

Monday, September 13, 2010

i've been chipping away at a sudden identity crisis all day long. 

not because i am now a daughter whose father is no longer alive (although, it has occurred to me that this may be a contributing factor).

no, it's because i've realized i've fallen in love with this precious community that has evolved to follow me through my dad's unfolding life-death journey.  each time i read one of your comments, a wave of appreciation comes over me, in a flush, this sense of gratitude at your voluntary presence.  i'm not ready to write the final chapter.

but all of a sudden, the star of my story is gone.  sure, i could yammer on about how much i miss him.  but already today, not two full days after his passing, i feel strange in my own skin as i imagine myself in the act of the yammering.  dad modeled for me in our countless military moves how to take the past in all its dubious glory and quickly bring it into the promise of the current opportunity.  healthy adaptation is all about the skill and speed with which we bring the old into the new, dad taught me, never in a lecture but continuously through his example.  He taught me how to keep the past simple, light-hearted; a constructive context from which to thrive in the here and now.  and, happily: living fully in the present, for the most part, has kept my past from becoming unsightly, awkward baggage that bores the life out of even myself.

so now i experience an awkward shift.  dad's life-death-life dilemma has now resolved itself in death.  which is as it should be.  and in terms of a storyline, as best as i can anticipate, there are only two additional "official" pieces yet to tell:  (1) the experience of his funeral service, and (2) the outcome of his autopsy.  then what?

i'll move on from this tenuous place of loss, for sure.  and i'm okay with this.  looking forward to it, actually.  and, i'm even okay with not knowing just how and when this will occur.  this indeed is the thrill of life, the unknown.  but the daily living out of my grief?  i'd be happy to share, if it benefits you, but i can assure you that these details of my life will not hold my heart captive like my dad has these past weeks and months.  and if i am not enraptured, how can i expect you to be? 

i know when to let a good thing go.  but so quickly after losing my dad, it saddens me to think of saying goodbye to the safety and community you and i have created.  but why keep meeting here? our story is without a plot, and no beloved protagonist, by the mere suggestion of his presence, is begging us to return.  i'd love the privilege of building a long-term community; writing and relating have been lifelong interests of mine. but what would you want to read?  how do we sustain the continual coming back for more? a blog without an active readership is, in the famous two-word phrase of brother daniel, a fail.  better to craft beautiful journals by hand and leave them under the mattress for future generations to find.

*        *        *        *        *

today as i meander through Borders (a favorite spot when i need to wander), i begin to formulate my sense of this sudden identity crisis.  the long and short of it is this:  when i began dad's blog, i only allowed myself the luxury of "immersion journalism"  because i felt it was the only way to do justice to my dad's compelling story.  in the words of wikipedia: to use personal experiences and emotions to provide context for the event being covered.  to go gritty and deep.  and besides, my dad's story was bursting from my soul.  the immediacy of the plot, the depth of the supporting cast, the countless twists and turns.  what other choice did i have?  reducing dad's remarkable story to a list of medical facts wasn't going to help any of us process all that had just happened and was yet to come.  but now, the immediate work has been done.  what a privilege!  what an experience.  two nights ago, my dad's story reached its potent climax. i am fortunate to have captured it in outline form that night, and (thanks to a stranger named anne) through powerful imagery last night.   a fan of suggestive endings, i know we've arrived. a pensive conclusion is in order. i realize this immediately...just about the time i realize, also, that i'm hooked.  I'm hooked on the daily structure of my writing sessions, the therapeutic outlet, the love i feel from and for each of you. 

sounds like a type of identity crisis to me, does it to you?

*        *        *        *        *

in a book i find a nugget that gives me pause:
in this modern world, we have never been taught to experience authentic grief.  we (and others) want our mourning to be tidy, polite, and over in a day or two so we can get on with our busy, outwardly focused lives.  we are afraid of grief's primitive rawness that can completely overwhelm us with its own agenda.  (A Beautiful Death, Cheryl Eckl, pp 255-56)
in a friend, i find a seed of hope:
i don't just come here for your dad's story.  i come to hear your heart.
*        *        *        *        *

i hope not to become that sad soul who gets stuck looping through those unattractive stages of grieving.  i hope not to be that stoic daughter who avoids the sting of her new dad-less reality.  and (most of all), i hope not to be that classic therapist who, in the absense of her story's hero, is afraid to let her friends and family see inside her heart.

an age old habit i think i'll adopt

tonight i was visiting auntie gail's blog, encouraged by the love her people are pouring out to her as she suffers the loss of her oldest brother's passing.

i saunter over to her post about seth godin ("my two cents: why seth godin shouldn't quit", august 26).  one of my favorite authors as well, i am drawn into the lively conversation she and her readers are having about the value of traditional books.  a passionate reader, and holder, of physical books, this new awareness -- that seth may indeed be saying goodbye to published works -- would normally send me into a flurry of research to discover just exactly what the guy is up to.  but tonight i find myself only loosely intrigued.  this i attribute to the day's rather dulled emotional state (at 11:45 pm tonight, sister cheryl notes we've achieved "the 24 hour landmark").  a vague interest, that is, until a reader about 18 comments deep grabs me and holds on tight: 

wow, annie binns. in six simple sentences i am transported again to dad's bedside last night. the closing of my dad's eyes when his life here is no more, the holding of my face tight against his chest, the closing of my own eyes as my tears escape. i breathe in the very last of him, i take in his breath that wooshes out as he closes out this life and enters into the next.
I could never give up the tangible, bound book. I, too, highlight Seth’s and a few others’ books with yellow and blue and even stick Post-It tabs on their pages. But the part I really can’t give up is an age old habit when I finish a good book. I close the pages and hold it tight next to my chest like I’m giving it a hug. I don’t know why I have always done that. I close my eyes while it’s right there and try to breathe in the very last words of wisdom that woosh out of it as it closes.

perhaps the closing of a good book, with all its wisdom tucked within, is quite like the closing of a good life.  gratitude for all that was given, and sorrow to have arrived at the end.  the urge to re-read the highlights, to experience again the highs and lows of the story as it captures us and teaches us a little, or a lot, about life.

dad, my life feels heavy without you here with us.

thank you, loved ones, for all you have given, and will continue to give, to us. 
xoxo k.
tonight i was visiting auntie gail's blog, encouraged by the love her people are pouring out to her as she suffers the loss -- and joys -- of her brother's passing.

and then i sauntered over to her blog post about seth godin ("my two cents: why seth godin shouldn't quit", august 26).  one of my favorite authors too, i found myself loosely intrigued by the whole discussion of his recent decision to discontinue traditional publishing.  a passionate reader, and holder, of physical books, i normally would begin a full-on search to discover just exactly what the guy is up to.  but, given the permission cheryl has given me to have a post-passing dulling effect ("the 24-hour landmark" she called it, at 11:45 pm tonight), i figured that a vague interest would have to suffice for now.  but then -- one of her reader's comments, about 18 comments deep, grabbed me and held on tight:

"I could never give up the tangible, bound book. I, too, highlight Seth’s and a few others’ books with yellow and blue and even stick Post-It tabs on their pages. But the part I really can’t give up is an age old habit when I finish a good book. I close the pages and hold it tight next to my chest like I’m giving it a hug. I don’t know why I have always done that. I close my eyes while it’s right there and try to breathe in the very last words of wisdom that woosh out of it as it closes."

wow, annie binns.  in six simple sentences i am transported again to dad's bedside last night.  the closing of dad's eyes, the holding of my face tight against his chest, my fin, the resting of my head upon his chest as my eyes fill with tears.  i breathe in the very last of him, his breathe that wooshes out as he closes out this life and begins the next.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

SEPTEMBER 11: a fitting day for dad to die

i thought i would be able to sleep tonight without coming here to wrap up my day. but, apparently meeting you here through my posts has become an elemental part of my daily routine. perhaps i will need some time to pass before i can know and share with you impressions that are close to my heart, but it seems best to state a few things simply to you, my dear family and friends.

tonight, at 10:40 pm, our dad slipped away from us. each of us in the room -- mom, cheryl, jonathan, bethany, tim and me, along with our nurse laura -- experienced his passing in our own unique way. likely tomorrow I will discover some of their perspectives -- perhaps they are completely different from my own. but for me, i must say, i experienced his death as gentle, generous, dignified and, yes, with a bit of dad's signature twinkle!

* gentle, because it wasn't sudden or traumatic in any way. his final breaths came intermittently, with long pauses in between, for about 30 minutes. we had time to adjust. there were no gasps or ragged, wheezing labored efforts, no heaving chest; it was...well...different than any other type of breathing mishaps he's had. It felt purposeful. and not scary to me, or him, in the least.

* generous, because all of us were able to be in the room together. while this may not have been by dad's specific choosing, i do feel inclined to think it was by design. why not just by chance? well, today contained the only 12 hour window of time since his icu "brain death" days in july, when mom and all of us kids (minus the military one) have been together in the same room with him. without going crazy on the math, i'd say there were about 119 other 12-hour windows that could have been given to our family for his passing. some of which, were only mom or me present with dad. or dad in his room, all alone. how strange and wonderful, i had projected in an earlier post, it would be to have us all together in the same room wishing him well as he enters eternity.  it was both of these sensations, and more.  strange, wonderful, and most merciful to all.

* dignified. dad, all this time, and despite intensive levels of cognitive decline and emotional strain, has always had a presence about him that others beyond our family have noted. lots of different descriptors that they used, nurses, doctors, therapists, visitors, to explain their experience with him....but i've delighted in their efforts to put their sense of him into words. because no matter what words they use (fascinating, intelligent, cute, precious, adorable, mysterious, inspiring), i always see an overlay of dignity; like his father, he was always gracious in every setting. eager to express appreciation at your presence.  a true military diplomat.  and even though his ability to interpret his environment became diminished over the past few weeks and months, his sense of dignity remained. i can't describe the dignity within his death tonight; perhaps tomorrow i can gather some sibling support on this one and get back to you.  tim says it was quiet dignity.

* with a bit of dad's signature twinkle. at the end, when his breaths became intermittent, we didn't know when (or if) they would resume. and as they continued to return, time after time, they gradually began to morph into breathing i'd never seen before. had this happened just once or twice, i could have handled it by quickly stashing the experience away in a distant, vague memory bank. but as these intermittent breaths continued i began to get a bit disoriented: what is happening here?  cheryl's imagery mid-way through provided an immedate visual for me to hold on to. and then, all of a sudden, i saw the sparkle in it all. his breathing made it appear he was running. running, my laser-beam-heaven-focused sister recommended, straight to the gates of heaven.  as soon as she said it, i could see it. the eager over-exertion that forces one to slow down just for a few moments to catch one's breath.  but not for long, as something worth the effort is right before your eyes... a big wide ribbon that you're straining to break, so you can know the race is won. run dad! we promise we're not that far behind.

it wasn't hard to imagine the twinkle in his eyes & i've seen it, against all odds, all the way to the end; surely it was there tonight.

so, so much yet to accomplish in the celebration of dad's life and the putting of his body to rest. I want to officially thank each of you for your ongoing support of me and my siblings as we have shared dad's journey with you.  i feel we have a few days, yes and perhaps weeks and beyond, to process what we have  experienced.  I welcome you to sign off, and return to your normal routines.  or, if you'd just assume stay and participate with us in our process of embracing our dad's passing, we welcome you to stay on. 

Based on the speed with which i have raced to my laptop each evening, i can only imagine that this form of community will continue to play a key role in my life as the reality of what we've lived through comes to settle in my soul.


brother daniel and i are planning to collect your individual memories and impressions, and integrate them into the upcoming celebration of dad's life.  if you have any photos to share, feel free to send them via email to me at  if you have words to share, feel free to post them here or email them to me.  and for any snailmailers, our address is 60 East Vernon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004. 


has my gratitude to you for your connection to me and my siblings been apparent in my posts and responses to your comments?  has my need and appreciation for your love and support been clearly expressed?  if you could spend time with me physically in the same room, i feel as though you would see it oozing out my pores.  you'd feel it in my hugs, you'd see it in my eyes.  without you here, my ability to be present as i was with my dad, day after day, week after week, would not have been possible. 

so once again, i thank you with all my heart for keeping me and my family in your heart.
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox always and forever,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

pending freedom

the nurse just told us that she will be surprised if dad will lives past midnight.

mom and i just spoke together that dad has been working a long time toward freedom.

sad for us, surely, but so right and glorious for him.

the only one we're missing here tonight is daniel, and the rest of cheryl's family.  my gratitude for dad passing on a night with so many of us here is just, well, beyond measure.

i feel the love of each of you with us.
thank you all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

ahhhhh....more precious time?!

well, mom, dad, cheryl and i (along with tim) have parted ways for the evening.  dad lives on.  the doctor who saw him tonight says that his heart rate is quite elevated (now 140 beats per minute rather than 60-100, which is the norm).  and that surprisingly, his lungs are now clear (they have been coarse for the past few days).  this means that he will likely not end up ending life with a type of "suffocation" death (which, several days ago when his lungs were filling with fluid, the doctor said was likely.  He had worked to prepare us, stating that while this type of passing is difficult for bedside loved ones -- the air hunger, the gasping, and the gurgling --  thankfully due to adivan and morphine, it is not typically difficult for the patient.)  this doctor was an amazing, unexpected help for each of us tonight.  we learned lots of new things, and not once, not twice, but three times he asked us if we had any further questions.  to fully appreciate this is to know that mom and i, ever the information seekers, seldom experience this level of patience and investment at the physician level. hospice however...yet another way that these guys break the mold.   he took lots of time to fill in our end-of-life knowledge gaps.  one of which, the ever-present backdrop priority, is the "when" of it all.  in saying we won't likely have more than two or three more days, he gives us the idea that perhaps, in fact, today may not actually be the day after all. 

i must admit, i feel almost giddy.  first and foremost, sister cheryl is here.  the sensation as a little sister that my competent big sis is here to save the day...well it's palpable.  and effectively  indescribable. she wonders at her inherent "hero status" (simply by stepping off the plane -- but i know as well as anyone that, with 4 growing kids at home, even this thing is no small feat).  second, is the sense that i may not need to see my dad strain for his final breaths. (i did see this status for about an hour two days ago, until re-positioning shifted the demand on his lungs.)  how it will look, exactly, no one is able to outline...but the idea that we may not have to suffer beside him....well, giddy is really the best word.  third and finally, is the sense that i keep getting more time with my dad.  still, after all this time, i thrill at the idea of more.  Insatiable, i am.  well, perhaps this word isn't perfect....but it's close.  

jonathan and bethany will be here in the morning.  would be strange and wonderful, all of us in the same room, loving our dad, and wishing him well as he enters eternity.

i cannot tell you how hopeful i am that another late night call will not come to us tonight.

thank you again, each of you, for all your kindness and support.
soon we will be living with a dad-gap in our lives, but for now -- we phil bruce kids are gifted with just a little more time.
xoxo, k.