Sunday, March 6, 2011

Letting Go, Part 2

Almost two weeks ago, my daughter and her family moved to Cleveland amidst tearful goodbyes.  They left behind reminders of themselves scattered like toys in a playroom.

That same week brought about a letting go of a different sort.   That Friday afternoon my cell phone rang and I saw a doctor’s name.  My Dad had been in the hospital for over a month.  Before I even answered, I knew it couldn’t be good.  “There is nothing more that I can do for him,” the doctor said.  Dad was transported back to his nursing home.  Doctors there observed him for a few days.  He continued to decline.  And the signs of his body shutting down were becoming more evident.

A few days ago, I signed the papers for Dad to be admitted to hospice.  I had been hesitant to travel that route.  I had viewed the decision as giving up on Dad.  But as the days progressed, I realized that it was not giving up on his getting better;  it was realizing that he was not.  And it was not a matter of giving up, but letting go.  My Dad has mild dementia, so he has no idea that he is so close to the end of this life and the beginning of the new.  But although his body is weak, his dry humor is still strong as ever.  I was reminding him about a restaurant that we had gone to a couple of years ago.  “Do you remember Jason’s?” I asked him.  “No,” he said.  “I can’t remember if it was last year or the year before,” I said.  “Welcome to the club,” he replied.

In the South, people don’t die.  They “pass,” followed by a parade of pound cakes to the home of the deceased.  “Passing” is a very appropriate expression – as an actual passing from one reality to the next.   And in the immortal words of C. S. Lewis, “Christians don’t say goodbye, they just say see you later.” 

That is not an expression of wishful thinking.  God has not left this process a mystery.  You can know without a shadow of a doubt what is on the other side.  We can let my father leave with the assurance in our hearts of KNOWING that we will see him again.  Several weeks ago, when I came down to Florida for the second time in two months, I talked to him about his faith.  Now, please understand that my father was never very verbal about his faith.  Actually when we were growing up, he was not very verbal about anything.  He was a research scientist whose delight was spending long amounts of time alone in a laboratory.  But last month, I asked him pointblank, “Dad, have you ever asked Jesus to be your personal Savior?” He responded immediately. “Of course.  A long time ago.”  He made a choice that grounded him in life and in the hereafter.

Mom and Dad always enjoyed traveling, many times leaving us with no clues to their whereabouts.  But Dad is leaving us now with a destination in mind.  That makes the letting go a lot easier.  We will all miss him, but he will just be waiting on the other side.

1 comment:

Living Outloud said...

Karen, so beautifully written. I'll see you later, Dads. I remember kissing my Dad goodnight one night saying the same thing and the next morning he could not here us or respond for he had slipped into a coma. Hospice was there and making plans for it to be weeks and in the graciousness of God he breathed his last earthly breath while we were all around his bed and on it with him, telling fishing/hunting tales of times he had taken us with him on his passionate pursuit of game. God is so good regardless. We will be praying. nancy