Saturday, October 30, 2010

To Sir, With Love

The father of a friend of mine passed away yesterday, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few months back. Her family knew this day would come, but it's always sooner than later isn't it?

I heard someone say that she "was prepared" for his imminent death. How on earth can anyone possibly prepare for the death of their father? The very thought of losing my own dad causes me great anxiety and sadness for a day that I know will eventually come. I pray that it comes much later than sooner.

I see death quite often in my line of work. I see the pain that is left with the families and I can only imagine what picking up the pieces will entail. I understand that death is a part of the poetic circle of life, but rationally I find it hard to process when it pertains to my own flesh and blood.

Years ago my father had a heart attack. While he was lying in a Cardiac Cath Lab in Central Texas, I sat helpless, some 1500 miles away in the back room of the record store that I was managing at the time in Northern Virginia.

Long hours passed and thoughts of despair filled my mind as his life passed before my eyes.

Thankfully, my father is a stubborn old goat and it just wasn't "his time to go."

There is a funny story behind all of this, that ultimately opened the door to my medical career, but that is best saved for another time.

I visited my dad in Texas the following month. One afternoon we headed out for lunch, just he and I in the car. I think he planned it that way because he knew that there was no means of escape. It happened between country songs on the radio, it was the moment that I first came to terms with the fact that my dad was not the immortal superhero that I'd always envisioned.

In his slow, southern drawl he said to me, "Sugar, what happened to me was serious and one of these days it might happen again, since you are the oldest, I am leaving you in charge to pull the plug when that time comes."

Needless to say, my first reaction was to burst into tears. I feverishly begged him over and over to "stop talking about it," while waving my hands wilding in front of my face.

I was nowhere near being ready for that talk, he understood that and upheld my wishes. The mere thought of it was unfathomable and there was no way that he or anyone could have convinced me otherwise at the time. I was still blubbering as we walked into the restaurant.

In the years since then, I studied Emergency Medicine and became a Paramedic. I have grown to understand, respect and accept death with a bit more clarity.

I know the time will come one day. From a logical standpoint, I am prepared, but there is no way in hell that I can emotionally get to that same level. It will be one of the worst moments of my life.

For now I choose not to mourn the inevitable, instead I will cherish the time that we do have. In my eyes he is still the greatest superhero to have walked the earth in his nerdy leather Top Siders, shoes that only a true mortal could wear.

I know now and in the hereafter that I am loved with all of his heart and he with mine.

I am quite sure that my friend experienced the same lifetime of love with her own father. I hope that he is in a good place smiling down upon her, waiting with open arms for the next time they meet.

Once again I borrow a quote from my wise friend, my own personal little Buddha...

"Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy." - Eskimo Proverb

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