Anyone who has navigated situations like our family is facing knows that there are really no answers. For the thousands of questions, there are no answers. For all the preparations that we can make, there are still surprises. For all the ache we feel, there is still joy.
There are things I want to remember about the sweet, gentle, and crazy difficult conversations we're having with Dad and each other. And there are things I want to scrub from my memory. There are things I am learning. And there are things I've known all along.
My mom is an incredible person. She has had very little sleep since Sunday--I would say about as much as some of us need each night. Yet she finds time and energy to answer text messages, talk to nurses, email friends and family, navigate the new vocabularies of palliative and hospice care, make phone calls, and gently help each of her grandchildren say goodbye. She is strong beyond anything I could describe. And wise beyond what anyone would need. She is--in a word--incredible.
On my way to work this morning, I stopped at mom's favorite coffee shop to pick her up some breakfast and a large cup of her favorite coffee. I had already talked to her a little--and I knew she had only one hour of sleep. I knew dad was in a private room (no longer in ICU), that his blood pressure was showing some improvement, but I didn't know much else.
When I arrived...
I need to stop.
I know what I want to say. The conversations I had with mom and dad this morning seem like a lifetime ago. They were tender and private, and I don't want to forget them. But so much has happened since then... I need to stop. To say thank you to those of you who are loving us. Near and far. Online and in-real-life. Standing in the gap, and holding us up. Thank you. To the "lawn fairy" who showed up to mow mom's lawn tonight. Thank you. To the friends who are on "stand-by" for the moments when we need sitters. Thank you. To the friends who have walked this road and are sharing their stories and their tears.
When I arrived in dad's hospital room this morning, he looked at me. Mom looked exhausted. Together they explained that Dad decided to go back on dialysis and some of the medications. While more alert than yesterday, he was frequently in and out of sleep. Finally he looked right into my eyes--like he used to when I missed curfew or when I was dressed up for a date. Like he had something important to say. Or ask.
He said, "I'm tired. I'm really tired."
Daring to break his gaze, I looked at mom. She turned away, crying. He squeezed my hand. I leaned in close, and I asked him if he was ready to meet Jesus.
There was more. Some, "Are you sure" questions. And some really hard answers to hear. There were a lot of declarations of love. And at one point my dad--having decided that he is ready now, today--closed his eyes, twisted his face in pain, started to cry, and just said, "I love my grandkids. I just love my grandkids so much." Over and over and over.
I ache even thinking about it.
I shared with him what a friend said to me in a message, "REJOICING for your Daddy," she said.
In the end, he had enough presence of mind to make his own decisions. To call hospice. To stop some of the life-saving medications.
I went to work. I hugged my sister for a long time. I tried hard to concentrate. I drank coffee and water and went to the dentist.
When Isaac and I arrived for Isaiah's track meet, he looked at me, and handed me a piece of paper. "I wrote this for Papa. I NEED to read it to him tonight," he said. As usual, there was a crowd around him. I patted his leg and told him we could talk about it later. He looked around. Clearly he had not shared anything with his friends. "I NEED to see Papa tonight," he said again. I said okay, patted his leg again, and I walked to my spot along the fence.
I tried to read what he wrote. It was a poem. About how Papa never gave up on him. I could not get through the first stanza before the tears were streaming down my face. I folded it up like he had and put it back in my hoodie pocket.
After his first race (which he won), Isaiah joined us. We talked a little. He said he was dedicating his races to Papa tonight. He ran again. We talked some more. He ran again. Never embarrassed to be with me, he left now and again to talk to some friends or to sit with another student who didn't have any friends.
After the track meet, we went to see my dad. He is back at the nursing home. He seemed more relaxed. Comfortable. He smiled when we arrived. Seemed happy to see us. He held Isaiah's hand as Isaiah fiddled with the poem--unfolding it with one hand because he didn't want to let go of his Papa. He looked at me. At Isaac. We left the room. He clearly wanted a private moment. I still don't know what that poem said. He read it to my dad. And left it there. A while later, we followed mom back into the room. And Isaiah prayed for my dad. To walk. To dance. To be free of pain. For God to take him where he wants to go. His voice cracked. Then he left the room and disappeared down the hall.
Isaac prayed, too. A simple, beautiful prayer. For Papa to feel peaceful and not miss him too much. We had to rush home so Tim could leave for work. And now I sit. Alone. The kids are all in their rooms. I think at least two of them are asleep. Or close. I know I have a lot to do. Lunches to pack. Stuff to clean. But I just want to be still. Just be. Remembering the little things that don't come to mind when I think about the busy day.
Like Dad telling Isaiah that he is almost done with his own race after Isaiah talked about track.
Like explaining Hospice Care to the boys while wishing I didn't know anything about it.
Like watching their faces as Papa fell asleep in mid-sentence after they thought he was doing so well.
Like hugging my mom. And my sister. My sons and my daughter. And my dad.
Like hearing him say my name. And, "I love you."
And seeing his smile.
And listening to the dispatchers' voices coming through Tim's radio as we stood at the kitchen island and packed his lunch together. Seeing his face when the call came. Wishing I didn't know what the radio codes mean. And watching him leave in a hurry to assist another officer. But not before he wrapped me up in his arms, whispered how much he loves me, and kissed me goodbye.
I want to be still. To soak in the memory of the moments of today.
Knowing that we are never promised tomorrow.