I've started this posts three times and then deleted it. Mind you, I only got as far as one or two sentences before hitting the backspace key.
One subject that has always fascinated me is when a person knows they are going to die what runs through their minds right before it happens. Now I know you're thinking two things:
1. What a weird and morbid thing to be fascinated by.
2. Everyone knows they are going to die at some point.
We all have expiration dates stamped on our foreheads, but let's face it, the reality of our death doesn't cross our minds everyday. I mean, do you really think a truck is going to hit you while crossing the street today? It's not until something catastrophic happens that we are forced to think of such things.
My fathered passed away 2 -1/2 years ago after being in the hospital for three months. He was a very smart and sharp witted man. He was a huge football fan. He played football in high school and also in college, at Clemson University. He set college records and was inducted in the Clemson Hall of Fame as well as the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. He officiated high school football from the time I was a little girl, up through my own high school years. I know absolutely nothing about football, but I was so proud of my dad during those two Hall of Fame inductions. Here in Charleston at the beginning of high school football season, we have the Sertoma. it's basically when the local schools get together and scrimmage to kickoff the football season. I always felt so special when going to the Sertoma and seeing by dad out on the field. Like I knew someone on the inside of the action.
My mom, sister and I went to the hospital everyday. We'd stay with Daddy in shifts. My mom and I would go there in the morning and stay until around 5 pm. Then my sister would go after work and spend time with him until visiting hours were over. For three months, seven days a week that was our lives. During those three months I witnessed a strong man who didn't give up, a tired man who wanted to give up, a patient man, a man who adored his family, a man who kept his sharp mind, and sense of humor intact, a man who had to endure the physical pain of an illness, and the emotional pain of the unknown. I sat and watched a couple who had been married for 51 years, sharing good times as well as bad, look to each other for strength. I saw devotion that was unwavering. I saw hope, heartbreak, grace, and strength.
I had seen all of the above at various times throughout my life from my family, but when it's all concentrated for three months, on a daily basis, in one room it makes an indelible impact on you. Daddy had 4 close calls in which we thought he was going to pass away. My mom and I were in the parking garage of the hospital when we got the call that he was having trouble breathing. I looked at her frightened face and reminded her that we had gotten similar calls. We just needed to get to him. It was a 5 minute walk to his room. He passed just before we reached him. I was never as proud of my dad as I was during those three months.
What does this have to do with Thanksgiving 2013? It's taken me this long to be able to look back at that time and feel appreciative and thankful for it. I always knew we were fortunate to have had three months of concentrated time together in a room demonstrating what love and family really meant. But, it's taken me a couple of years to feel it. The mind and the heart are two separate organs. Up until now I would think back on that time and feel all of the hurt and pain. My mom has always told me that you never get over the death of a parent. You get past it, but never over it. She's right. I miss Daddy everyday, but am so thankful that he was in my life and showed me how to leave this world. I often wondered what Daddy was thinking about during those three months. Did he know he wouldn't be coming home? Was he scared? Was he at peace? I never asked because I didn't want to upset him or take away any hope that he had. Knowing him, his final thoughts were on his family. Would we be okay? At first we weren't, of course, but as time has passed we are able to think of his life more than his death.
"Your strength and character grow stronger and deeper as you wait for hope to return."-Present Perfect by Alison G. Bailey
My dad's influence is all throughout Present Perfect, from the Vienna sausage breakfast, to Tweet's humor, to some of the more poignant parts of the book. Thanks to my Dad I gained a new perspective on life and death. I drew on my life with him and his death with me while writing the book. A book that has changed the direction of my life.
Thanks Daddy. :)