Cancer is killing my Daddy.
He is getting a little closer to death’s door as each hour passes. So are we all, though. Everyday, we really are one day closer to dying than we were the day before, and we do not know what day death will meet us. It could very well be Today.
This is why the Little Things matter so much.
In these, his last weeks, he is unsteady on his feet. Unbalanced, he reaches from one support to another when he walks around. “Don’t leave me, Sunshine,” he implored me last Sunday, as he walked slowly out of church. He feels uneasy if there isn’t someone or something near that he can hang onto.
His hearing is strange, amplifying background noise, and making everyone sound like Alvin & the Chipmunks. He did figure out that, if he plugs his ears and concentrates on the person speaking, it cuts out the background noise, and he can distinguish words better. So, we bought him some ear plugs, which really seem to help when there are six or more children running around. There are some puffy, new lumps on the back of his head that we’ll be asking the hospice nurse about tomorrow. His nausea is coming back, though his appetite is still pretty good, thanks to steroids.
He is sleeping a little more, napping at random moments throughout the day. He is less inclined to have visitors, other than family and his very dearest friends, but still enjoys getting encouraging letters, emails, phone calls, and texts, even if he can’t reply right away.
My dad is making the most of the little things, not content to just sit and wait for death.
He has made it a point to get outside a little, when he can, especially with the kids. He has managed to take each of them on the short walk to the mailbox at least once. He has laid in the floor, and let Tischel crawl on his back and tickle him. He never refuses a hug from small arms, and tries hard to make sense of their voices, which sound too high and small for him to hear well.
He’s always open to someone crawling up next to him on his bed, or the couch. He reads stories to the kids backwards and nonsensically, just like he did for my sisters and me when we were younger. “Papa!” they groan as he acts innocent and just keeps reading the sentences backwards. He makes up words, sings silly songs to them when they get grouchy, and gets quiet and stern when they don’t listen. They, in turn, are gentle and loving toward him.
Every night, Dain still prays, “Bless that Papa doesn’t die,” and all the others beseech God, “Please help Gramma not to be lonely when Papa dies.” My heart breaks every night, hearing those sweet requests to a loving Father from faithful, small hearts.
Dad’s patience is infinite these days. I sometimes apologize for the noise level when it gets a little crazy, and Dad just smiles, and says, “It’s okay. It’s good to hear them happy.” Mom says he just loves the atmosphere of Family. It feels more like home to him.
He has gone to breakfast with Mom, and used a shopping cart for some stability as he braved Wal-Mart with her. The other day, he loaded the dishwasher for my mom, wobbly though he is. She and I had to do some rearranging, but our heartstrings were tugged at the romance of it. He still loves to cuddle up to his wife and just sit with her quietly. She teases him about hogging all the covers at night, and lovingly threatens to kick him out of the bed. He replies that he’ll just tell his hospice nurse she’s abusing him.
I know that, to some, that kind of joking is just weird, and doesn’t sound all that funny. Laughter and love here are synonymous, though. If you could see the sparks fly between the faces of Mom & Dad, and the dancing twinkle in their eyes when they tease one another, you would understand. There is no greater love than what my parents have for one another, because it is the love that would lay down its life for a friend. I know that Mom would trade places with Dad, if she could. My heart aches with bitter joy when I watch them.
That is the love I grew up living with. I am so infinitely blessed!Today is Lydia’s eighth birthday, and all she asked for this year was for everyone to come have tea with her – no presents or anything. Papa likely won’t be able to make even the short trip down to Myrtle Creek for her tea party at The Painted Lady, so we had her birthday pancakes at Papa & Gramma’s, so he could be a part of it. We will be having her birthday dinner here tonight, as well.
When Dad found out it was Lydia’s birthday today, he cried a little, because he’d forgotten. My heart nearly broke, as I reassured him that all was well, that Lydia was truly happy to just be here on her birthday.
It hurts a little more each day, as I see Dad declining in health. The man who has always been there, always strong, is now weak. At least, in body. In spirit and mind, he is as much himself as ever. More quiet and introspective, he reads more, and talks a lot about faith and the hope of Heaven. He still teaches, still guides, still studies God’s Word diligently, and still leads his family by example.
What are we going to do without him?
Keep living and following his example, I’m sure, but my mind cannot grasp earthly life without my Daddy. I just can’t picture it. At all.
It doesn’t make sense.
I don’t know that I need it to make sense, though.
I trust God, who orchestrates even a sparrow’s small death, and is sovereign over all and in all. I trust the God who wept at the tomb of Lazarus, though he had come there for the express purpose of raising him bodily back to life. I trust the God who understands me, because he walked in human form for about 30-ish years, and knows what it’s like to live on this earth.
I just need to know that I will, indeed, be able to walk through this Valley and come out again into a place of Light and Joy again. I mean, I “know” that I will. I just need to know. You know?
Anyway – I’m thanking God for the little things again. I am so grateful to be here, and part of this. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. The only thing that would make this complete is to have my husband to crawl into bed with at night. There is no one with whom I can share my heart as freely as Levi. Not on this earth, anyway. There just isn’t. No girlfriend, sister, or anyone else is his equal. I love none better, except my Lord and King, Jesus Christ.
And I miss him.
My heart friggin’ hurts, and there is nowhere to go to get away from the pain of it. It just is what it is, and I will keep walking. Moment by moment, from one little thing to another, until my own End, which will really be just the beginning.
Grace & Peace,