There is something different about daddy.
This week and last, daddy appears sad. His eyes look sunken. When I speak to him, it takes a while to capture his attention. He goes from hanging on, as if he never wants to let go of my hand, to an almost complete withdrawal that is hard to describe. While he’s there in body, his mind seems far away. It’s a kind of blowing hot and cold, and I’m not sure if there’s a way to adjust the thermostat or whether we are past the point of fine-tuning. Is Daddy’s body on its last legs?
I am sad. Yet, I know Dad will be okay. Not because he will continue to hobble along in this world, but because I possess this abiding sense that Dad’s life will continue in some altered state once his soul flies free of his body. Daddy may be taking the first steps of his final dance on earth, but there will be other dances with partners more attractive than his much ignored walker and the walls and pieces of furniture he uses as support to shuffle his way around the house.
Some will find this all to be just ‘wishful thinking’ on my part. “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.” Or the cuter variation my friend Ann recited with her daughters, back in the days of young family when her husband Jack was still alive: “If wishes were Crisco, then beggars would fry.” In response to either of these proverbs, I would simply smile and echo the words my youngest ‘grand’ so often says. “That’s otay.” I’m not too bothered about what other’s choose to think about matters, like life after death, that are based solely on belief rather than first-hand experience. It’s just as easy to believe as to not. Or as expressed more eloquently by Blaise Pascal: “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”
But there are those near death experiences one reads about. And those personal stories I’ve heard from others. One story was from Ann in fact. Hard to believe it happened almost four years ago now. Her son-in-law Stuart was on his last legs, after a two year battle with leukemia. When no more could be done, M.D. Anderson released him to Hospice. And in an apartment within the Houston Medical Center complex, his wife and children gathered around Stuart to say a month’s worth of final good-byes.
Close to the end, perhaps it was during Stuart’s last days, he shared a final gift with his gathered family. Stuart told Ann that he had seen Jack, who by that time had been dead fourteen years. From all my reading on death during my time as a Stephen Minister, this ability for the dying to see the dead is not uncommon. I read a book written by two hospice nurses that reported case after case of near death experiences like the one Stuart shared with his family. I pulled it out last night and begin flipping through it, wondering if my sister might like to skim though it as well. Appropriately, the book is called Final Gifts.
This word ‘final’ that weaves through my words — final dance, final goodbye and final gift – I should not have used if death is not the final word.