What Draws You Closer?

It was the anniversary of my Dad’s death earlier this week.  Every Autumn I remember back to that year and to all the beauty and love, sadness and dignity, loss and growth our family went through.  Dad knew he was dying, he had grown weaker and more tired, and took several naps a day.  I remember my Mom, siblings, Aunt and I taking him to his cardiologist’s office to have his implantable cardiac defibrillator turned off.  They have to do this when a person is actively dying, or the defibrillator would keep shocking and shocking trying to get the heart into rhythm when it stops.  His doctor talked with him, asked him questions, and asked us if we had any questions.  It has to be a sobering moment for a doctor to know that there is nothing more that they can do for their patient.  The handshakes, hugs, and kind words from him and the staff as they said goodbye to a patient they knew they would never see again spoke volumes about the seriousness of the situation, and their fondness for Dad.

That last couple of months our family came together as we hadn’t been since childhood.  Us kids took turns spending days and evenings with Mom so that there was always someone there to help.  We bathed him, encouraged him to eat a few bites of food, refilled his water cup, helped him roll over and try to get comfortable.  By the end we were all basically living there.  I did loads of laundry every day, we took turns cooking a meal or going to pick something up.  We were so grateful when kind neighbors and friends would drop off food or snacks.  My youngest sister and I had longer drives to our day jobs, while my middle sister and brother were walking distance to their evening and weekend jobs.  Our varying schedules helped with ensuring that there was always someone there.

While Dad slept I would frequently sit quietly in a chair just to be with him.  We’d have conversations about whatever was on his mind.  His faith was strong.  He knew he was going to heaven.  Dying wasn’t what bothered him, it was the “collateral damage” that concerned him.  Knowing that everything would change, worrying about Mom and what would happen to her.

I remember conversations with Mom as we laid in bed with Dad.  About how we can’t see the big picture.  God has the big picture and knows that everything is going to turn out all right.   It’s like a tapestry and we see this little, teeny, tiny corner of the picture and don’t know or understand how it’s all connected to everything else, and keeps going on.

The opportunity for closeness and increased faith when someone is dying is a gift.  Was it hard?  Oh yeah.  It was exhausting and stressful.  I spent the last month living out of a paper grocery sack of clothes that I would stop by my house and exchange on my way home from work when I couldn’t stand wearing the same outfits over and over again for another week.  Like my sister, I burned through every sick, personal and vacation day to go to appointments for Dad and to be there for Mom.

By that last week we were all walking zombies from the lack of sleep and the stress.  The slightest sound from Dad and we would hop out of bed, or leap up from a chair, bound over a laundry basket like a gazelle running to see what he needed.  Since I had no more time off, I went to work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday wearing my usual business attire.  Yet I bundled up in a zip front hoodie over my dress while at my desk, huddled in it like a hug.  When I got to my parents home after work, the hospice nurse who visited daily and the CNA who visited twice a week were in the bedroom talking.  As soon as I heard Dad’s breathing, I knew we were at the end.

It’s called the death rattle, and once you’ve heard it, you know what it means.  I hugged Mary, our nurse, and thanked her for being there for us, knowing that we would probably never see her again.  I don’t know if Mom fully grasped it yet, but I know my sisters did.  We spent the evening together and all went to bed, and Mom got in the shower.  Although it was very late, and I was exhausted, I felt the need to climb out of the guestroom bed I was sharing with my sister and go talk to Dad.  I laid my head on his chest, told him that I loved him, and that we would take care of Mom. Mom heard me in there and asked from the shower if everything was ok.  I told her it was, then continued my conversation with Dad.  I told him that it was ok to let go, that we would be alright.

Dad went to heaven to be with Jesus in the early hours of the morning, a place he had already glimpsed when he was slipping out of consciousness and proclaimed “So beautiful, all the colors and light, it’s just so beautiful!”

Oh, how I miss him!  He was so fun, and funny, so smart and handy, a grounding force in our lives.  I wish he could be here to enjoy our expanding family.  The grandchildren, weddings, and great-grandchildren that have added more love to our family, with two more weddings planned within the next year.  He would have enjoyed the babies and children, and having more people to love.

Death can shake your faith, or it can help it grow stronger.  God increased my faith, changing me in ways both  simple and profound.  I am much more focused on the things that are important in life, I am at peace.  I feel joy and calmness, and going to Mass makes me happy, gives me the foundation in life that I need.  “Thank you Jesus” is a common enough refrain because I do realize how very blessed I am.  I pray that when you encounter troubles, that you find the love and joy that your heart seeks, that your faith is increased.  Will you open your heart to Him?

 

Morning Light

Appreciating the Sunrise

I have always been a morning person.  The peace and quiet, watching darkness transform into light speaks to me.  I remember taking family vacations that were a 24 hour drive from home.  Everyone else in the vehicle would be sleeping, and I’d be the “co-pilot” sitting up in the passenger seat next to my Dad who was driving.  Sometimes the radio would be playing softly in the background.  Sometimes we would chat quietly, or just enjoy the rhythm of road noise as we drove along.  It was a quiet, peaceful, wonderful start to the day.

My favorite morning spot is sitting on the chaise in the sunroom, looking out through the East facing windows.  It’s the perfect spot to linger over coffee, think, check emails and Facebook, and watch God bring light to the world again and again.  I love watching the sky turn from black to midnight blue, to pretty pinks, purples and corals, and then into a sunny blue.

For years I have gotten up at 5am to be able to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee before getting ready for work and the (at least) hour long drive it took to get there.  Even 15 minutes of quietly waking and taking time to savor and enjoy a cup of coffee can set you up for a less stressful day.  I know that some people like setting their alarm to wake them up at the last possible minute to get up and ready for work, (then hitting the snooze button once or twice!)  That just leads to feeling cranky and stressed, and rushing to not be late, and who needs that added pressure in their life?

If that rushed, stressed out person sounds like you, just give yourself that sunrise wake-up treat for a few days and see what you think.  Slow deep breathing, quiet peaceful moments, and the beauty that is sunrise can improve your outlook on life and mornings!

 

The Sounds of Life

What sounds make you happy?

What is your favorite sound?  Is it the sound of a revving engine, which means you’re heading off for a ride?  Is it your favorite song, blasting away on the radio with the sunroof open and the windows down, and you singing along?  Is it the perfect performance of a beautiful piece of music, or the sound of a lawn mower signaling that it’s a sunny Saturday summer morning?

I love the sound of the ocean, how it grows louder as a walk toward the water, how the waves sound as they flow gently or crash loudly on the shore.  But my absolute favorite sound is baby belly laughter.  The sound of a baby laughing always makes me smile!  Baby belly laughter in general is great, but it is particularly beautiful to me when it is my granddaughter laughing.

My daughter and son-in-law live in another state, so I don’t get to see them often enough.  But one of my favorite memories from their last visit was holding Lila in front of my mirrored closet door.  Lila loves mirrors.  She thinks that the baby in the mirror is funny and likes to see herself kick and move.  Dan and I held her in front of the mirror and I let her kick away as she baby belly laughed.  Ah, that sound!  I can still hear it in my memory and it is golden!

I think that is why we love our favorite sounds.  They remind us of the things we like, evoke the memories of a certain time or place, or make us feel closer to the people we love.  Fill your life with happy sounds, and enjoy the sounds that make you happy!