Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Parts of Me - My Father's Passing

We are presently in the days that are preceding my Father's death - or as Marshall explained it to the boys, - his graduation. He will probably pass away sometime in the next few days and so we are with him almost around the clock. There have been a few nights when we have come home from the hospital to get a full night's sleep but other than that you can find us at his bedside most of the day. I sit with Mom and try to guess his immediate needs and then visit with whomever comes into our little space. The visits from my family and our friends are always a pleasure as they pop in to give a quick hug, a smile of assurance, an offer of anything we would need to be met and even a laugh or two.

We are not sad in this room. In fact we are probably the rowdy-est group they may have had in the hospice room. To us, this passing will be a delight. We are so glad that we get to attend to this event. All of us want to be there when it actually happens - both to say a tearful good by but also to see the amazing beginning of a journey from this world to the next.

Thoughts are flying around in my head as I sit there these past few days but the one I wanted to write about today is about what I see in myself that has prepared me for this moment. It may sound a little selfish to write about myself at a time like this but that is how it is. I am me in this moment and seeing it from my perspective is the only one I have.

The thing I notice about myself is that I have several persona that are viewing and participating in this passing. There is the daughter in me, the mother in me and the member of the human race in me.

First the daughter in me. There is a little book for children that you can pick up in any bookstore called, Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch where it chronicles the life of a mother caring for her infant son through his adulthood and then his care of her as she grows sick and dies. I find myself as my father's daughter doing this very thing. I sit beside his bed and remember the times where I ran to him across the tarmac as he de-boarded his plane and he scooped me up in his arms. I remember playing with him in the waters of Hawaii as we visited him for a week during his "vacation" from Vietnam. I remember him teaching me how to drive my VW Bug in the back 40 of the property in Puerto Rico. I remember wanting to NEVER see his lips pursed together till they became white because he was disappointed in me. And I remember a day where we were talking about God and he looked at me and said, "Where did you get such a mean God? He loves you, Sis. He is just not like how you have described."

So as I sit by his bedside and give him a sip of water to wet his mouth or a cool rag to wipe his forehead, I remember and am his little girl, his daughter. I find myself saying things he said to me as a child. When he wanted to take off his socks yesterday, I said, "Daddy, you are wearing your piggy toes," just as he always said to me. I love the daughter in me.

Then there is the Mother in me. Having all the kids that I did, prepared me to care for my dad. There is not much difference in cleaning the butt of a toddler and tenderly attending to the bathroom habits of your dad when he can no longer do it himself. We have laughed in that I can understand his slurred, toothless speech, better than anyone else. Who knew that toddler speak is also a very close form of old man with no teeth speak! I'm an expert translator of both I guess. I have also learned to read and respond to the small gestures of someone who just can not think of the words that are needed to get their needs across to you. I'm in tune what what he wants and needs most of the time. I remember holding my babies and trying to decide just what it was that they wanted. All that practice is coming into good stead right now.

I'm so grateful for the mother in me. It allows a closeness to my Daddy that becomes a true delight as I care for him. It does not feel burdensome. I was prepared for this time.

And there is the realization that I am part of something much bigger than myself. I am seeing the broadness and circular nature of human existence. I often step back and realize just how our existence, our being and our lives are so absolutely amazing.

Carla mentioned the other day that death must be very much like birth. That thought has had me pondering this event like nothing else. I have never witnessed a death but I have been through several births of mine and other friends. I am amazed at the sameness that this has to those. The room where we sit with Dad feels like a birthing room of sorts. His labored breathing, the signs of deterioration, the progression towards death is not unlike the feelings you get as you watch the last signs of someone going into labor. The similarities are uncanny to me. They feel so familiar. I almost feel bad because I anticipate the moment as I would a birth. I'm sure it would be different if I were watching a life passing before it's natural time. But this death of my Dad is not a sad thing to me. It is as natural as birth. It will be a wonderful thing for him. He longs for it and has prayed for it. It will be an answer to his and our prayers. So maybe that is why it takes on the excitement and joy that a pending birth has.

So I love the fact that I can view it as part of the human experience - that I can see the full circle of our human path. It is a wonder to me. I think if I could add a phrase to the Bible I would add it to a portion of scripture where David is himself in wonder of the world around him.

He says: "There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden."

To Davids list I would add, "And the way of a life from the newness of birth to the passing of an old man."


Anonymous said...

Barb, I love you in your father's passing. I love you anyway - but I love how you didn't know you had any of this inside of you. What a beautiful thing. It is the most positive story of a parent's upcoming death that I've heard. You may have just rewritten my hard and fearful expectations of what it will be like when I help my parents through the labor of death. And changed expectations can often change an experience. Thank you. - C

co_heir said...

Barb, we have gone through something similar in the passing of my mother and my wife's mom. It was a real comfort to be able to love and care for them and say our goodbyes, knowing that goodbye was not the end. We still grieved, but there was joy as well.

I'm praying for you as you serve your dad and mom, for God's grace, strength, and comfort.

Heidi said...

Oh Barb, this is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart during this time. What a beautiful way to look at birth...and life...and death.

Praying for you through this time.

Mary said...

This is really beautiful. I'm not at that stage in my life yet, but I think about it as I watch my parents and in-laws care for their parents. Thanks for sharing.

Rich said...


You made me cry and for that I thank you so much, my father passed away 3 years ago this January, oh how I miss him, but oh how I delight in seeing him again!

traveller said... with no end.

random thoughts said...


A beautiful read like always. Lost my father last year in March and also wrote about him on my blog, it is beautiful to share these intimate thoughts with others