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