I shared the bulk of this post a year ago in honor of the one year anniversary of Dad’s death. I just reread it and now am crying. Stories, even stories of death it turns out, are living and breathing. They change and morph and return. The plot twist this year involves the Broncos going to the Super Bowl next weekend. I’m beyond thrilled!
But I’m also sad. Two years ago, Del and I went to the last Broncos game with Dad. And what a game and day it was. Thrilling. Same word, same feelings. Two short weeks later we were in a hospital room with a dying man and a horrible game.
For the church calendar we are in the midst of Ordinary Time, the season between Advent/Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter/Pentecost. Kimberlee Conway Ireton in The Circle of Seasons describe it as the season that helps us “be attentive to the presence of God in the moment at hand.”
Ordinary Time is the messy middle of life, isn’t it? It’s the highs and the lows mixed together. The both/and of life. But it is also my hope to be attentive to the presence of God at the moment at hand. I told a group of writers, I’m sappy right now. Sad + Happy. Sounds about right, doesn’t it?
I know what I want to write. What I don’t know is how to start because we’re circling back. Where does a circle start?
In Made To Stick, brother Chip and Dan Heath explore what makes something stick in such a way it catches on. They talk about the curse of knowledge and when you know something, it is virtually impossible to know what it’s like not to know it.
When it comes to the Passion Week, we know how it ends. The disciples and others lived it forward, they didn’t know “everything would be okay.” We live it in memory, knowing how it ends. When Peter denies Jesus for the second time, I find myself wanting to scream, “Are you kidding me? Jesus told you you’d deny him three times and that’s number two, do you hear yourself? Stop! Stop.”
I do not mean to be irreverent when I say this is our passion week. I do not think my dad was Jesus. His death will not change The World, but it did change our world. It did change our story. It did change us.
I look at First Monday Amy last year and I think: Oh you sweet innocent fool, you have no idea where this is headed.
Dad had been sick and I was out of town. I got an unexpected text from Elizabeth who was with him at the doctors. Primary Doc called other doc and got liver results. Sounds like tumor is gone. Gift of good news!
Stunned. We were told the treatment goal was to slow and shrink the liver tumors and Dad could live a long time with them. But gone? It was a miracle in the true sense.
Tuesday I arrived home and that evening Elizabeth, Laura and I texted and called trying to decide if we should take Dad to the emergency room to avoid further dehydration. This is the blessing of living a story forward: we didn’t know.
I look back at Tuesday Amy and Tuesday Elizabeth helping Dad down the stairs and out to the car and I’m so glad they didn’t know this was the last time they’d see their dad leave the house. The home he had raised them in and played roughhouse and made them spend endless summer hours mowing and in winter help hang the Christmas lights outside. They, blessedly, didn’t know. They just knew to put one foot in front of the other and move towards help.
It’s what we all know.
I look back at Wednesday Amy and the calls she made. Calls laced with optimism, parroting phrases used in the ER. “I’m so sorry to tell you Dad is in the hospital, but we don’t think it’s too serious. We just need his kidneys to wake up.”
I have such compassion for Wednesday Amy and her family.
Thursday brought surgery as the doctors thought again they’d solved a problem. He lived through it and they were encouraged.
(I think of you, dear reader, and I wonder if you find all this tedious and, I’ll be honest, I don’t care. Medical situation are tedious, they are. They are hurry up and wait. They are confusion mixed with hope mixed with worry mixed with boredom.)
On Friday Laura arrived in the early evening for the weekend. Friday Amy and Friday Mom had gotten permission for Friday Laura to sneak into the hospital after hours and see her dad and kiss him good night.
They still don’t know. They are so innocent (and tired).
I remember Saturday Morning Amy talking on the phone to her friend Jenny and the laughter. I’m grateful for the times of laughing woven in.
And then it changed. They knew. Saturday Amy, she is no fool. She knows. It was phrased in terms of one option being months and another weeks. Laura left the next day to return home to get ready for a longer stint in Denver. The Super Bowl was not super, but our half-time show was holy. We told Dad how much we’d miss him but that he had been a wonderful husband, father, son, grandpa, engineer, and friend. He was known and loved and he could go without regrets.
We thought the big shocks were over. How many times can you be naïve? Oh Monday Morning Amy, what you think you know and what you’re about to find out.
The vocabulary changed from treatment to care and weeks to days. As Monday Elizabeth and Monday Mom worked on finding a place to transfer Dad, Monday Amy started calling people. Sunday Laura became Monday Laura. I said what I never wanted to say, and she heard what she never wanted to hear. Come, come now. The clock has changed again.
Friends came and sat with us and laughed with us and spent precious fleeting time with the man they loved too. And then the transport team came and we followed to see Dad settled in his last (and worst? Thankfully he didn’t care) earthly bed. Monday Amy and Monday Elizabeth went to a Denver Nuggets game to tell an usher who loved our dad, “He’s dying.” Who else is known by name by an usher? Who else is known for his smile?
Tuesday Laura and Tuesday Sue arrived before Dad slipped too far away. Those hours spent together with him as friends came and went and we took turns holding his hands, it was like being in a labor room for eternity. It was hard and humorous and holy.
Wednesday came. And at the palindrome time of 2:22 (give or take, we weren’t looking at the clock and got to pick the time and Dad loved a good number pattern) on February 5th, Tom Young died.
Wednesday Amy she carries all this and more with her into the next year and now we are circling back. If I could tell my dad four things this week it is this: we remember you, you mattered, I miss you and I love you.
Thank you for your love and friendship this year. Love, Amy
Michelle Sessoms says
This is said so well. So, so well. This past week (on what would have been my grandma’s 80th birthday) I re-posted something I wrote called “Since You’ve Been Gone.” (http://placesinbetween.wordpress.com). Like you, we didn’t know. We were told a year, but it was six weeks. I’m not sure what it would have been like had I known that the last time I saw her was indeed the last time I was going to see her. Your words about Monday Amy and Tuesday Amy and so on captures it so well. Thank you for sharing this.
Michelle, what a beautiful tribute to your grandma. This whole life and death thing, can’t wait until we’re done with it. Cyber hugs!
Mark Allman says
An Awesome tribute to your dad.
Thanks Mark, I often think of how you remind me of him. :), Amy
Gayl Wright says
So beautiful, Amy! Sending you love and hugs!
Thanks Gayl :)!!
Suzanne Oliver says
Oh, Amy. Such immense sadness and indescribable comfort. You are so blessed to have the family members you have (although it’s barely possible that neither you nor they are perfect). You were and are so blessed to have those memories. Would you mind if I were envious? Mine was a much lonelier journey. I’m so happy to be a part of your life now, to hear of so many of your life experiences. You are a gift.
Oh Suzanne, I do get it. I don’t know why we are so blessed. We keep reminding ourselves, “We got an extra 30 years.” My dad first almost died when i was in 7th grade and what a difference that would have made for us kids and for Mom. She didn’t have to parent us alone and bear so much of life on her shoulders alone. I don’t know why we were so blessed.
I’m happy to be part of your life now too :)!
Thank you for sharing – we’re going through something similar and it’s strangely helpful to hear the stories of other families.
QL, thank you for commenting. As you said, it is strangely helpful to hear of others stories. I poked around your blog and know you are a doctor, so whatever you’re facing, you have the added blessing/burden of understanding bits more than some of us might. Blessing and prayers for you and your family on this path. xox Amy
Kimberlee Conway Ireton says
Oh Amy, I’m weepy. Thank you for taking the time to write this, for publishing it. What a blessing to your father’s memory, and to all of us who are remembering loved ones who have gone before us.
Nancy Ruegg says
Bittersweet and beautiful, Amy. Your dad must have been a man of faith and integrity–such a powerful legacy to leave family and friends. And I so appreciated those three words you chose to sum up what many of us experience as we say good-bye (for now) to loved ones: hard, holy, and humorous. Perfectly said, my friend!
Spot on. I appreciate calling it your passion week. It is, isn’t it? Very tender. Today would have been my husband’s and my 38th wedding anniversary and yesterday his 67th birthday! Thankfully, I am not sad. He finished so well.