Saturday, August 13, 2011


Time is a funny thing. Some gurus and pundits declare that we all have the same amount of time in a day and our life becomes the sum of how we spend those amounts. I suppose on a technical scale that is true. But in the reality and practicality of living it gets much more blurry.

In one way I have 8 hours less a day than my friends who stay at home with their kids. I am not at my house, I am not nurturing friendships or other relationships. I am not (necessarily) utilizing my gifts or talents or pursuing my hobbies. And in one way those mom's have 3-5 hours less a day to sleep than I have. I don't have late night night terrors or middle of the night feedings or little fingers poking me much earlier than I'd like to be woken up.

So, time becomes a relativity and an amorphous idea. It's easy to say we all have 24 hours in a day and break that down to minutes and seconds or count it up to hours in a week. But that completely ignores the fact that reality isn't always real and outside things constantly affect our tracking of time. A night spent with good friends will always go faster than a boring or stressful afternoon at work. Both might be 4 hours long, but they will certainly not feel the same.

My Dad went to the doctor on February 22 and he died on April 13. 7 weeks and 1 day. The 7 weeks before he died and the 7 weeks after, at a minimum, are a haze. I can recall pieces, some very vividly and some in snippets, like the rememberance of a dream you had a few days ago. I can remember going to the house and sitting with him on Friday the 18th while my Mom went in to work or ran errands or something. I remember going in to work on the 13th for an hour or so to tell my boss we were calling hospice. I remember hearing my aunts sob when they found out they hadn't made it to the house in time. I know I sent a text to the people I was keeping in the loop. I remember calling my best friend in Japan repeatedly over the course of 2 hours until I could get ahold of her. I remember calling another dear friend who didn't have a cell phone and couldn't receive a text. I remember another wonderful friend wailing on the phone and I remember that surprising me, and wondering if something else happened on her end to make her wail like that, it actually took me a second to realize she was crying for me. I remember realizing that my job was actually a blessing in the grief because without it I don't know if I would have gotten out of bed by now.

I remember my eyes filling with tears in the office at UW when the chemo doctor told us if the chemo worked that it could buy us time, hopefully many months. I remember Dad saying that retiring from General Motors after 35 years was probably the thing he was most proud of in his whole life. I remember him saying that at least he had already had a good life and a good wife and girls who loved him, rather than some little kid who hadn't even had a chance at life yet. I remember him telling me that once the weather got nice he was going to have someone come in and paint the entire house. I remember humoring him because the idea was, and still is, ludicrous.

I remember thinking we'd have time. More time. A few months at least, maybe he could make it to Christmas. Then I saw how quickly he was declining and I thought maybe he'd get through our birthdays, that would still have been 2 months. Then Mom decided it was time to call hospice, and I thought we had a couple of weeks. Time to gather the family, time to ask the questions or tell the stories I still long to hear. Time.

I remember telling a couple of specific people to tell each other what was going on, and I targeted "my group" of people to keep in prayer for us. But I also distinctly remember not putting it on the prayer chain at church and not posting anything on facebook because I didn't want to deal with the crap that people would inevitably throw at me. Platitudes and bumper stickers and rote prayers. I just didn't want to deal with it.

But a couple of weeks ago in church we prayed for a woman. I think her name is Kathy. She lives in the town I go to church in and she was recently diagnosed with some kind of cancer, I think. My pastor started to pray and I started to agree in prayer and ask that God spare them the grief I am going through .... and I had to get up and leave the sanctuary. I stood by a window in our foyer and quietly cried. I think I may have made it to church once in those 7 weeks before he died. Since I specifically didn't want it on the prayer chain, I wondered ...

Did they pray for my Dad and my family
like they are praying for this woman?

I had that momentary "what if?" And I cast that aside pretty quickly, it tried to come back a few times but I refused to dwell on it. But I still wonder. I've thought of asking a couple of my friends who would know, but I'm not sure I want to know the answer. It's a two edged sword for me. If they did pray for us, why didn't any more of them say or do anything before he died? If they didn't pray for us, could it have made any difference? Intellectually, and even spiritually, I know that God is sovereign and holy, I know that His will was done, I know that He is good and only gives good gifts. But my heart weeps.

People like to say time heals all wounds. But that's not true. If you lose a leg in a tragic accident, time doesn't heal that. If you get in a horrifying car crash and your leg is shattered, you will never be exactly the same as you were before. You will have scars. I think time especially doesn't "heal" grief, not this kind of grief. I truly believe I will always feel this absence in my life. But the sharpness and intensity of it will fade as I continue walking through my days. In a few years the idea of October 5th or April 13th won't make me want to curl up in a ball and stop functioning for awhile. Eventually I will be able to remember the good stuff and laugh and only be glad that I had such a wonderful Daddy for such a long time.

But right now, I keep hearing Pink's voice in my head. (starts about 2:55)
Have you ever
wished for
an endless night
lassoed the stars
and the moon
and pulled that rope tight.
I would never wish for my father to still be here in as much pain as he was that last night. But I hear those lyrics and that's what I think of. I wish I could go back. I wish I could stop everything that night, or the night before. I wish I could have appreciated how little time we actually had. I don't know that I would do a lot of things differently than I did, but if I had known we only had 7 weeks, I don't think I would have done anything other than be at the house with them.


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