Oh man. TGIF. I love teaching, but man is it exhausting sometimes. Today was rough around the edges, but that’s a post for another day. If you haven’t read pt. 1 you’re gonna want to.
After Christmas of 2013, my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and their dog came to our apartment in January for my mother’s birthday. We went to bed the night they got there expecting to wake up the next morning and spend the day together.
I was woken up in the middle of the night by mom asking for our address. Thank goodness Taylor had a clear mind at 1am. He spit out our address and quickly followed up with, “what’s wrong?” Dad was having a seizure and it was not his usual quick, short-lasting seizures that he only had to let his doctor know about the next day. This one had been going on long enough for mom to wonder and to worry and then decide to call 911, come to our room and ask for our address. We all put clothes on, the ambulance got there, came up, got Dad, and we all followed them to the hospital in our own car. When we got to the hospital, they began all the tests and procedures. It lasted all night. They eventually transferred him to a bigger, better equipped hospital in Charlotte. We all followed the ambulance and settled down there for the day. We each took turns going back home, letting the dogs out, and going back to the hospital. At this point, we were each running on about 3 hours of sleep. Looking back and thinking about my sister who was 8-9 months pregnant at the time… good heavens. I’m not sure how she stayed on her feet that day. God bless you Lauren.
Eventually, after some scary moments, humorous moments thanks to Dad being able to use sign language, and some lovely supporting people… the doctors decided Dad was stable enough to be transferred back home to Duke hospital. Mom followed the ambulance and Taylor and I went back home and said we’d wait until Mom had heard more from Dad’s doctor. This last seizure had messed with Dad’s speech as well as the mobility on one side of his body. His doctor said he would need lots of speech therapy as well as therapy to be able to walk, but that it seemed highly unlikely that he’d gain back full mobility. At this point, my idea of church and faith was gone. I mean, what was the point? I went to church consistently for the first 20 years of my life. I loved church. I loved the Bible. I loved God. I loved sharing all of those things with other people. My own father had taught Sunday School for years, hosted Bible Study in his home for years, been on countless mission trips, spent so much time studying the Bible and furthering his relationship with God, dedicated his life to helping others and look where it got him. I did not understand how someone so dedicated to serving Christ could end up with such a bad deal.
Now, looking back, I see so many things that had gone in our favor. We were told in 2011 that he had brain cancer. He knew, although he did not tell us, that it could be months. We were given 3 more years. For this last seizure, we were all there together. All of us, in the same house, so we could all deal with it together and support each other. Our apartment was literally half a block from the hospital. It took the ambulance 2 minutes to get there and 2 more minutes to get Dad to the hospital where they stopped the seizure. They saved his life and gave us a few more months. There were so many times I thought… what if this had happened at his home? How would they have gotten him to the hospital on time?
After Dad went home, they moved his bedroom downstairs. My mom promised to call me if something happened or if I needed to come home. At some point a few weeks later, I got that call. I left work, packed my bag, and came home. One of my best friends that laid in the nursery with me was getting married while I was home. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding. I was there for a couple more days when my sister went into labor. My precious nephew was born at the perfect time. He brought such joy and excitement into our house. Dad was continuing to try to talk with us and make jokes like always. His hospice nurses would let us know a general time frame, as well as let us know they were praying for us. Dad always charmed his nurses. He was kind and sincere and I think people were drawn to that. He wasn’t two-faced at all. He was an honest and giving person. One day, it was time to call Taylor and he came to my parents house as soon as he could get there. We had another day or two and that was it. Dad was gone. I remember sitting there, holding his hand, not wanting to be anywhere else and simultaneously wishing to be anywhere else, but here. After a few minutes of his light breathing it slowed and eventually got so light that I couldn’t hear it. Mom signaled for the nurse to come in, she checked his pulse and shook her head. As much as I loved my Dad, I immediately felt disconnected from that room. He wasn’t there. He was where he wanted to be. He was where he could speak clearly and move freely. He was where he had always wanted to be. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” became a motto in our house. They sang “This is My Father’s World” at his funeral and I still can’t hear that hymn without crying.
Taylor and I, at this point, had returned to the church we went to together in college. I was struggling emotionally. I would hear a song on the radio and cry. I would listen to my students sing and cry. I would look at my dog and cry. I had never been an emotional person. I didn’t cry a whole lot growing up, but I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t allowing myself to grieve. I sat down and had a talk with our pastor and through this conversation I realized a few things. The most important one was this… If I don’t allow myself to feel the things that I need to, I cannot be honest with myself. I grew up with this mentality of “it’s no use to cry over spilt milk.” When I said this to the pastor, he responded with something I will never forget. “Well, okay. Let’s take that analogy and use it. Sarah, you’ve spilled milk on the table and not only are you not crying over it, but you’re not even acknowledging that it happened. When you spill milk on the table and choose not only to not cry over it, but to even acknowledge that it’s been spilled… it ends up just sitting there. It drips on the floor and possibly on you. Then after a while, that milk begins to dry and sour. You can ignore it if you want to, but at some point that milk is going to stink and you won’t be able to do anything without being bothered by the smell of that milk. Now, would it be better to completely ignore the milk or to acknowledge that milk has been spilled, cry if you must, and then clean it up and take care of the problem before it becomes worse?” I remember sitting on his couch and just sobbing. I finally understood. I had spilled milk. It was everywhere and my heart was starting to sour. I had chosen to ignore the problem completely. I was jaded with church, I was distrusting of religion, I was bitter about what had happened to my Dad. Rather than dealing with these emotions, I ignored them. That was a turning point for me. I began to try and let myself cry whenever it came up. I tried to actually feel the feelings that I had pushed down for so long. It was like I had opened floodgates. Everything was heightened. If I was happy, I was ecstatic. If I was sad, I was inconsolable. It has been a slow change and it is something I still struggle with today.
Talking with Taylor helps tremendously, but I am hoping that this blog will also give me an outlet to let go of those emotions. I can feel myself healing slowly. Every once in awhile I have a day where I just want to forget about everything and harden myself up again. Then I glance at Selah while she’s sleeping and my heart just melts. In some ways, not acknowledging my feelings was so much easier, but I recognize that that’s not healthy. My time at my school in Texas was perfect healing. The teachers there were just amazing. They were so friendly and accepting. They made me laugh every day and made me fall in love with teaching again. I went to Christ Lutheran Church while in Dallas and I from the moment I walked into the church, it felt warm and inviting. Their choir became like family for me and I will always be grateful for them. I am grateful to be in a church now and in a job where I am supported. Every time I open myself up to someone, I can feel healing take place. Anyways, I could go on for a while… like I said, floodgates. For now, I rest knowing that I can find family anywhere as long as I am willing to open my heart. For now, I know that healing comes in building relationships with others. For now, I rest knowing that God can heal physical pain, emotional pain, and spiritual pain. For now, I rest on the promise that GOD provides.