When I left my job back in April I had a plan to take my life back; focus on work I had always wanted to do, and creative outlets I had always wanted to explore but never had the time for. Before I got started on this journey though, I had a couple things to take care of, things my job didn’t allow for previously. My daughter had three months left before she left the state for college…there were finals, graduation, a going away party, a family vacation and preparing her for the move.
I also needed to spend time with my dad. He was deep in the final stages of lung cancer. After seeing his mom suffer through chemo, he had made a decision for himself, a life long smoker, that he would not seek treatment. I think we have a false perception of what the final months/weeks of our lives might look like. The final months seldom look like our normal lives. Over the course of the summer I watched his condition decline quickly. This past week was especially hard, with his condition changing hourly, daily, until he took his last breath just a couple days ago. I can’t even describe the relief I feel that he is no longer suffering.
All the events of this summer have been things to go through, to endure, to breathe in. There wasn’t really anything to “fix”, only moments to absorb. After so many years busy being busy, I am so grateful to have taken this time. There was nothing about it that was easy or intuitive to my nature, it took fairly regular focus to stay on the task of just being.
Over the course of the week with him, it had gotten to the point I was no longer able to properly clean and care for him. He could no longer swallow…no water or morphine. He needed a bigger, more experienced team to take over. We spent the week trying to find a good rest home for him to move to. Finally we got the call for Friday morning, ambulance would be coming for him.
I had plans to leave the next day. In the past, I would have simply raced home and jumped back into the action of our family, but after what I had experienced over the past five months, I decided to stay back one day in a hotel all by myself. To say my step mother’s house was an intense place to be in that last week was an understatement. I needed cleansing head to toe spiritually before I could get myself back in the car. Spent the day on the coast through Monterey, Pacific Grove, Cannery Row.
At the same time this was going on, my daughter was calling me from Colorado. It had been three weeks since she had arrived at school and everyone had gone home for the three day weekend. She was feeling all alone and homesick. I challenged her to a photo challenge for the day. We would both be alone on our own adventure. Sharing pictures throughout the day might be just the right balance of family support and necessary alone time that we both needed all at the same time. Over the course of the day, we ended up with all three kids and my husband involved. To be honest it was so fun we are going to do it regularly.
The northern California coastline gave her a run for her money…
But then she pretty much killed me with her good camera, the Rocky Mountains and a beautiful horse ranch.
After my day of taking in the northern California coastline, I went back and saw my dad one last time. He asked me where he was. After being completely uncommunicative the previous day, hearing his voice was sweet. I stayed with him, held his hand, rubbed his chest. Eventually I told him it was time for me to go home, and that it was time for him to go home too. He passed away four hours later.
So where does all this leave me now? While the last five months have been about taking it in, I am ready for the next months to be about action…that turnaround I keep talking about. I have mourned so much, I can see how people get depressed and bogged down within themselves. In the months before he died though we talked several times about his life and how good it had been for him. Recently Kathie Lee Gifford, in describing her husband Frank Gifford’s passing, said something to the effect of, this is not a time to be sad, his life was a triumph! Well, my dad was certainly no famous football player, but in my dad’s mind, he did everything and more than he ever set out to do. He was so satisfied and fulfilled with the life he had created for himself. His life was indeed a triumph. I take strength in knowing that.
While I am so very grateful to have had this time, I need to make my way down my next path, I need to create my triumph!