“I knew this day was coming. Rehearsed it in my mind, trying to prepare. I’ve been grieving in anticipation of it. Thought maybe it would make this easier and would help cushion the heartache. Tried to soothe the grief with as much gratitude and appreciation as humanly possible.
Saying all the ‘I love you’s.’ Reminding myself how lucky I am to be a daughter to a father like mine. Cherishing memories and making new ones. Walks in the woods, talking about astrology, and looking for fresh tracks in the mud and snow. Going on movie dates. Arguing about politics and the pandemic, sometimes just for fun. Trying out new ideas on each other. Asking for advice. Tackling plumbing problems and listening to the Beach Boys. Eating so many tacos.
When death is so close, what can you do but lean even harder toward life?
I remember the first day I knew the inevitability of this moment was near. My dad had a nasty fall at the swimming pool and had some follow-up scans afterward. One of the scans showed an aneurysm. A ticking time bomb, close to his heart.
He told me about it on a sunny afternoon four years ago. We walked down to the lake together and I watched him fish — one of his favorite activities. Sometimes we are lucky enough to know in advance that every day is a gift. Sometimes we only know it later.
From that day on, I knew.
What I didn’t know was how much a heart can open in the midst of grief and fear. I didn’t know that no matter how hard I tried to anticipate these moments, nothing could prepare me for the outpouring of love we’ve received. I had no idea gratitude and grief were such close companions.
Gratitude for the nurse who managed to trim his beard around all the wires and tubes feeding and breathing for him. Gratitude for their humility. For their ability to keep him alive and yet still stop to take out the trash when it’s full so the next nurse has a clean room to begin again.
It is a sort of healing. Remembering all those long nights in the I.C.U. I did the same. How I didn’t always get to know the stories of the Dads and Moms and Grandmas and Grandpas I worked so hard to keep alive. How I couldn’t have known then how grateful someone who loved them would be for my hands and sore feet.
And then there are the messages — daily inquiries asking how he’s doing, how we’re doing. Genuine care and concern from people I barely know. Calls from out of town. The lady I met in the waiting room whose own husband was in surgery, saying she’ll add him to her prayer list. Hundreds of people by now, praying. Food lovingly prepared and delivered at odd times of day so we can receive it when we’re not at the hospital.
Heartbreak has a unique quality of sharpening. It hurts. It’s terrifying. But at the same time, it softens. It opens. It reveals the million things that are not going wrong, that give reason for hope.
I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you. I don’t know if there’s a time in my life when I’ve ever felt more acutely loved and supported. I know that’s another gift from my dad. That’s just who he is.
He loves with his whole being and this love has a ripple effect far wider than I could have ever imagined. It is humbling beyond belief to experience. How much one life matters. How intertwined we are. How much we need each other and how the smallest kindnesses are multiplied.
I’ve known for a long time that my dad is a miracle in my life. Now I know he’s a miracle in so many others’ lives, too. I am living in the light of his love and believing that now it’s his turn to let us be the miracle for him. As my sister said, ‘We have not yet begun to fight.’ He has already survived the odds and we will keep fighting with faith that his story is not yet finished.
Thank you for loving him. Thank you for loving us.”
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