For Christmas, we gave my Dad one of those digital photo frames. I loaded it up with dozens of photos - photos of his parents, wedding photos, family photos of vacations and lots of both grandsons.
I sat with him as he viewed it the first time. After a few photos, he made a sound, almost not human. Of joy, of pain. Of what maybe is not meant to be. As each picture came into view, I would slowly name who was in the photo. He would nod and wait for the next one.
One of the photos is of my Dad and my son singing “Happy Birthday” to my nephew. My Dad is animated, pointing at my nephew, singing loudly, I can hear it in my mind. My Dad likes a long version of “Happy Birthday.” At the end of the song, he continues, “And we wish you many more, and we wish you many more. And we wish you God’s blessings. Happy birthday to you!” As a kid, when you’re waiting for a piece of cake, that version took forever.
A couple of days after Christmas we received the news that he is in the end stages of the disease that is taking so much from him. Which could mean a year. Maybe less. Maybe more.
And we wish you many more…
There is business to tend to in the end stages. I’m full-on crash-coursing in the business of the end. Of finances. Of talking to hospice coordinators. Of ending treatment protocols. “He does not qualify for hospice yet,” she said. “I’ll be back in three to four weeks for another assessment.”
My Dad’s love language has been showing up. Showing up in emergencies and being the level-headed one. The “did you try this” one. The bring-a-tool kit one. The credit card one. The sing to his grandson one. The change your tire one. The fixer one.
I’m scared I’m not making the right decisions.
I’m scared I am.
“Listen to me, Cheri,” a colleague said the other day, “you are doing the right thing.”
The voice I need to hear most is his, though. The fixer one. The one I’ve heard all my life in emergencies.
…and we wish you many more…
I was scared last week. Angry. Ragey. Fearful. I lost my cool when my cool was what I needed most. I snapped at people who didn’t deserve it. Then at the end of the week, I came across a quote from The Alchemist in my Facebook memories. “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
I realized I was angry and scared because I wanted the universe to do the impossible. I was raging against the very nature of life when what I wanted most was peace.
Since reading the quote I’ve been viewing the world differently. Embracing the people showing up, holding me close, lighting the way with what they know and accepting their offers of help. Their offers of peace.
“There isn’t a manual for this,” a friend said.
And we wish you God’s blessings…
We took the Christmas decorations down the day after Epiphany. My son talking me into a full 12 days of Christmas. Everything was packed up and cleaned when I realized I forgot to put away a decoration, a sign that reads “Believe.” It’s lit from within and hand-painted. It casts a warm glow. I’ve been turning it on nightly as a reminder of Christmas.
Of the light in the darkness.
It may stay up all year.
Heavenly Creator, for when we are scared, remind us of love. For when we are angry, remind us of peace. In all things, remind us to believe.
Cheri and her son, Jackson, joined Saint Andrew in 2013. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.