I Wait

As I write this I’m waiting to hear from New Mexico that my father has passed away. He stopped swallowing the other day and was struggling to breathe yesterday. This is the natural progression of advanced dementia and it feels merciless to me.

I am sad. My mom is sad. My sisters are sad. We’re all sad. But at the same time, relief is just a last breath away. We’ve watched him suffer and mourned his loss for the last several years and, while we will always mourn for him, our desire is for him to be Earl again. For his mind to be whole, for his voice to be clear, for his legs to be strong. For him to know nothing but pure delight in the presence of his Jesus. This thought changes sad tears to overwhelming tears of joy.

I will not be there when he takes his final breath and I’m okay with that. Or maybe I’m just convincing myself that I’m okay with that. But my family is nothing if not pragmatic – maybe even to a fault. In my heart I’ve already said goodbye. And I don’t believe my presence will make any difference to him. Don’t get me wrong. If I was closer I would be there with my mom and sister, but logistically, it’s not realistic to think I can be there in time.

So I wait. I wait to make my flight arrangements. I wait to figure out when to make flight arrangements for Todd and Taylor. Katie is in the final weeks of her junior year of college and she cannot afford to miss school. So I wait to see when the service will be and if it will be possible for her to join us.

And when the waiting is over I will rejoice. I will rejoice in being with my family, no matter the situation. I will rejoice that my precious daddy is no longer suffering. And I will especially rejoice because I am confident in his final destination.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Philippians 4:4

Papa Collage

Daddy’s Hands

Daddy's Hand

*This is a photo of my father’s hand taken on Sunday, November 9, 2014.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy´s hands.

This is the song I danced  to with my father over 26 years ago at my wedding. Dad was quite the dancer and we two stepped our little hearts out. Or rather he two stepped while I tried to keep up. I’m pretty sure I bruised a couple of his toes when I stomped as he stepped.

My dad has always had nice hands. It doesn’t take much for me to go back in time and see his clean, neat nails as his fingers wrapped around a pen. Or maybe he’s sitting in his chair next to the stereo, listening to Mozart with his eyes closed while his hand conducts an invisible orchestra, a serene look of pleasure on his face. Sometimes I can picture his finger pointing at me when I was in trouble or when I “got him good”. I remember watching him scrub the grease off his hands with Lava pumas soap after he’d changed the oil or some other dirty work. What used to be strong hands that performed all kinds of tasks are now frail and worn. At 87 years old, they just don’t operate the way they used to. Kind of like his mind.

I hate dementia. It’s a horrible, insidious disease that slowly kidnaps a person without any warning. What at first seems like normal, age related forgetfulness morphs into the heart wrenching realization that the brain is broken. And it’s not something that will ever be better. It’s not a disease with a cure, nor is it a quick death. Instead it’s a gradual and tedious decline into a mental oblivion while the rest of us helplessly watch.

People think it’s a good day when a dementia patient knows their family, but I’ve decided lucid days aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. When my father knows what’s going on he is sad. He gets frustrated because we can’t understand what he’s trying to tell us. He’s sad because he can’t come home with us. He’s sad because he’s 100% dependent on everyone else to feed him, to put him to bed, to do everything. He’s sad because in those lucid moments, he knows he’s broken beyond repair.

And that makes me so very, very sad. What I wouldn’t give to have my daddy be whole and himself again. But that won’t happen so I pray every day that God would just take him home. Home where he will be whole and perfect and even smarter than he was back in the day. Then he can conduct the angels’ choir to his heart’s content for all eternity. Then there will be no sadness or frustration. Then there will be nothing but joy.

My dad is in a nursing home in New Mexico so I don’t have the opportunity to see him very often. Last night I returned from my yearly trip where I had the chance to spend some time with him and hold his hand. I like to think that small gesture meant a little to him and gave some comfort. It was just my way of returning the favor for all those times Daddy’s hands gave me comfort.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy´s hands.