Yesterday when we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park, people were having picnics, roasting marshmallows and playing volleyball. Not quite what we would expect this time of year at elevations of 8,000 feet and above. And what is normally our snowiest month will probably go on record as our driest March in history. Dry and warm like summer.
This one is for G.G.
It's water over the dam.
Bighorn sheep. The lighting was very harsh and the photos of these creatures didn't come out too interesting, but by playing with Picasa's new features, I made this one more fun - for me, anyway.
Hello and thank you for coming today. I’m John’s granddaughter, Jamie. Grandpa once challenged himself to join Toast Masters and told me that when people made errors in their speaking someone would drop a nail into an empty tin can. If he were listening now I’m sure he’d have a handful of nails ready to go. I hope you left yours at home, and I hope I can do him some credit.
My grandpa wasn’t a person who would typically be called a hero. He didn’t have a red cape, wasn’t splashed across the front page of the newspapers for his most recent athletic feat, and never pulled a child out of a burning building. What my grandpa did accomplish, and what was just as important, if not more so, was to live an admirable life. His example of how to live changed and inspired those who had the honor of knowing him.
I admire my grandpa’s kindness. He was a genius at fixing things. If it was broken, through some inconceivable mix of materials and methods of his own invention, he would fix it. And this was one way his kindness was always clear—he loved fixing things for the people he cared about. Grandpa was never one who wanted or expected anything in return—helping those he loved was his reward. Too many times to count I remember Grandpa fixing our car, washing machine, toaster, and even building me a custom table to fix the problem of needing a place to put books at beanbag level.
To the end of his life, Grandpa’s kind spirit won over the hearts of those who knew him. As he became less and less verbal, he would still wave to people he passed in the halls of the nursing home. And he always had a special place for kids and anything with fur. As a grandchild I know I’m a bit biased on this account, but children always caught Grandpa’s eye and made him smile, and he could pet a dog or cat for hours. The love was mutual, too--kids and animals knew that this was a person who “got” them.
I admire my grandpa’s passion for knowledge. Rarely have I met someone so dedicated to learning and understanding. He was interested in everything, and you never saw him far from a book. Gathering information wasn’t enough for Grandpa though, he wanted to enrich the lives of others by sharing what he was reading with anyone who would listen. It was always comical when Grandma would try to serve dinner and the table would be covered with encyclopedias or whatever else Grandpa was discussing that particular day. I know that Grandpa’s example helped nurture my own love of reading and learning.
I admire the depth of love and caring that Grandpa felt for his family and friends. I can honestly report that my Grandpa was the best grandpa ever. I know that Paul, Steven, and I will always treasure our memories of countless hours spent on his lap, doing yard work with him, getting tucked in at night, and hearing the stories that he loved to share. The legacy he left behind in our parents and in us is a testament to the power of a loving family.
Perhaps most of all, I admire the way both of my grandparents truly lived their wedding vows every day of their lives. The devotion and love they had for each other through everything that sixty-one years of marriage can bring was boundless. When I picture my grandparents, I see them holding hands, kissing hello, goodbye, and goodnight, and saying I love you. Even when dementia had stolen all of his other memories, his love for my grandma endured. It had become an inextricable part of who he was to the very end. And that ending proved to be a real-life happily ever after: before departing this life in his sleep, my grandpa’s last words were to say, “I love you” to my grandma.
This has been my life for the past five days: grief, love, family, logistics, Michael's cancer, my mom's overwhelm, having my daughter in town, meeting my son's lovely girlfriend, tired to the bone, amazingly beautiful spring weather, medical bills, acts of kindness, hearing of more and more friends and family with cancer, healing of family issues, shortness with each other, knowing it's time for flexibility and letting everything go.
I think that's the short list.
Below are a few words that I just wrote to my friend. I mean them.
Life is only grace - not just because we are brought dinner when we are
being stretched thin, but also because we get cancer, our parents and
beloved dogs die, and our colons go berserk and have to be removed so
that we can feel better than ever. It all feels like one big, colorful
kaleidoscope, and we are a dash of blue or green or purple moving around
amid the other colors in what can feel like a jumble, but what looks
like exquisite, changing patterns. No control, just chaotic perfection.
(Or maybe it's not really all so chaotic. It only seems that way when we find ourselves wanting to make a human kind of sense out of it.)
and today as we drove to the funeral home to make final arrangements a bald eagle flew overhead
some people believe that such auspicious moments are their loved ones giving them a sign
i have no way of knowing if my dad was flying high above me, white head and tail, finally free, finely free
i love bald eagles and to see one here is so rare
i just want to say thank you
to eagles and dads and skies and friends and family and myself and baby crocus bulbs peeping out of the ground and the great mystery
Yesterday, around 4:00 in the afternoon, while peacefully napping, my dad escaped his body. It was the death that everyone says they wish for for themselves. His last words, before he closed his eyes to nap were to my Mom: "I love you." Then he slept. And, at some point, he was gone.
Even though his final act of leaving this earth was peaceful and easy, the labor that got him to that point took more than a year. Throughout the last 15 months, there were many times that we thought Dad wouldn't make it and, overall, his last year of life was a long, slow decline.
Last night I asked the universe - or anyone and anything else who might be listening - the question, "Where is he?" And absolutely nothing returned in answer. Nothing.
How could I even be sure that the body in the wheelchair this past year was my dad? The only evidence came from the fact that that old body looked somewhat similar to the body I have always called "Dad". Anything dad-like in behavior has been gone for a long time.
So when did he take leave of this world? I don't know.
It is very easy for me, for a lot of people, to think that we don't contribute enough to this world. We think we need to stop wars, eliminate hunger, save the planet, etc., etc. In his last months, my dad taught me that, just by being who we are, we contribute far more than we can ever know.
For a long time, Dad rarely knew who I was. He contributed nothing to a conversation. So often, we wondered why he was still here. But in the last 15 months, his hanging around wore down so much resistance in us that, at his death, there was nothing left of the roughness that has characterized the relationship between me and my mom throughout my life. The old stories had been melting for a while, and the love and acceptance that was being nurtured was apparent as we stood by my dad's bedside. It is as though Dad was willing to barely inhabit his worn-out body for as long as it took for healing to occur in his family. I don't think that he set out to be someone who changed the world, but the world changed because of his being.
After the call, when we went to the nursing home to see Dad one last time, he was lying on his bed, peaceful and at ease. There was nothing tragic about it. My dad was liberated. Still tears flowed and we held each other.
Something big in me has surrendered to life. There is less resistance to what is taking place. No more resistance to my mom or nursing homes or keeping alive a tired body. The miracles are all around, and I am in awe.
Last night, the full moon. My dad was out there dancing with it.
Ms. Foam is hosting the weekly Haiku Monday over at her place. I have never even contemplated participating. How could I ever put myself out there like that? But for some reason, tonight it sounded like a fun challenge. Maybe I've found my inner "who gives a shit", due to walking this road with Mr. CfP's cancer. The theme is "silence"
sands rest after spring rainstorm.
Listen for its breath.
Blood pulsing through veins,
Wind in trees, belly gurgling.
I can't hear silence.