Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Reading

I love to read- it was installed in me early in my childhood as my parents took me to the York (Nebraska) Public Library and helped me obtain a library card. In my heart, reading is associated with my mother and father, both educators. They died less than a year apart in 2008 (Dad) and  Mom passed away in 2009. I wrote the following several months later in the summer of 2008 as I tried to come with grips with my father's life and his leaving us.

Yesterday, I fulfilled a pledge I had made to myself. Early in the morning, I made a big pot of coffee from the Starbucks packets Dad received for Christmas. Filling the Starbucks cup I bought him at spring break, I sat down and read every update on Dad's condition that I wrote from August 1st, hours after his stroke, through April 15th with the announcement of his death. It took three hours to get through the roughly three hundred entries. It wasn't difficult until I made it to April 1st, knowing the end was only two weeks away. I got choked up at the end and did not venture into the testimonials, either the ones I penned or the words of others. It's part of the healing process, I suppose. All of us handle things differently. I can't say it won't happen but I don't feel the need to sit down and talk about the death of my father. Truthfully, teaching my classes during the process of Dad's leaving us helped me heal a little bit every day. Hopefully, my students learned some things from watching me come to terms with death. Yesterday, I made some discoveries as well.

In the course of nine months, I had forgotten many details of Dad's daily struggles. I was impressed with how drawn out the process was and wondered how families handle it when it stretches out past months into years. I was reminded of the incredible kindnesses of so many good folks we had never met and how with their help, we were able to muddle through our folks' situations from long-distance. I recalled how jubilant Dad was when he got to see Mom and how distraught he became when plans fell through. I had forgotten how much Dad hated being in the hospital and how he lived to go home again. His will to recover from the stroke and practically beg for additional therapy was incredible. I read about all the plans we had for our folks which never came to pass. I was touched by the plight of those who are stuck inside four walls and how the mundane details of life become exciting. You see, most of my reports came from my nightly conversations with Dad and he hungered to feel like he still mattered. He wanted to read, he wanted to have his billfold returned with money in it, he wanted to drive once more (even though he knew the neurologist had said there was no chance), and he wanted to know he was not forgotten. He would get choked up when he would hear me read the e-mails people sent to him through me. He loved the cards and he loved the calls. He loved the visits and he loved the attention. He loved being able to live in his house again; he was just sad that it was no longer the residence of Mom. In the end, he loved us until he could not hold on any more. I remember looking out the window at St. Luke's on a beautiful spring afternoon and realizing Dad would never walk out in the nature God gave us again. That's when the reality set in for me. And as we sat around Dad's bed as a family, as he was still trying to breathe through the morphine-induced fog, I know he was so happy we were there with him until the final gasp of air. When he died, we sat in the room as a family for more than an hour before we went back to the house to make the calls I dreaded. Maybe we just didn't want to let him go or maybe we were just elated that his suffering had passed and he was with the Lord. The sadness will pass but the memories won't. Not as long as there is Starbucks. Someday, I may erase his message on the answering machine but not yet. I still like to hear him talking to me.

"Hello, this is Roger Hawley. Leave me a message and we will get back to you. And have a blessed day."

Applicable quotes of the day:
"I talk and talk and talk, and I haven't taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week." 

Mario Cuomo

"I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love."
Leo Buscaglia

"I have two judges and two only; the ten year old inside who told me never to stop dreaming and the dying man who told me never to stop living."
Raphie Frank

"When my father died, I moved into the space he left inside me and found out it was where I belonged."
Farland Fish

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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