Monday, August 19, 2013

a divine purpose

My dad, around 1949. Fort Riley, Kansas.
 
A few years ago I flew to Nashville to visit Dad and Sally.
Dad picked me up at the airport, but instead of heading home,
we ended up in an abandoned parking lot and had to flag down a guy in a pick-up
 to lift the gate for us to exit.
At the time I thought little of it; Dad just took a wrong turn.
But now I see clearly. Dad's mind was falling prey to dementia.
It was the beginning of a long, slow journey.
 
Ten years after this photo was taken, Dad was rolling on the floor
with my brothers and me, wrestling and laughing.  
A little girl with a strong, healthy, capable daddy can't know that time is fleeting.
That some day he won't be cutting the grass on Saturdays (how I loved that smell) 
or taking me to Sears to roam the hardware department.
That he wouldn't tend his tomatoes or build Mom a flower garden. 
One day he'd no longer grill out on Saturday nights or make sausage and biscuits on Sundays.
That even my teen years, when he didn't really know how to talk with me
and I was incredibly frustrated by him, would quickly fade away.  
That life stands still for no one.
 
Dad is still alive, but he's not living. I pray he doesn't grasp how much care he needs,
how his once-witty and intelligent mind has been scrambled and robbed.
I last visited him in June. So emotional was the visit
 that it's taken me two months to write these words.
His fluctuating condition weighs on my heart,
the sight of him bed-ridden replays in my mind nearly every hour of every day.
 
I felt I was staring down death. 
Dad's eyes were vacant and as I gazed into his face,
he barely realized I had tears streaming down mine.
It was a short visit, a detour home from Charlotte.
 On that full day I spent with him, June 10, he was awake maybe two out of the
 ten hours I sat beside him. It felt awkward, but I held his frail, white hand as he slept.
 I wanted to, for I was certain this would be my last day with him on earth.
I wanted him to feel my love and the peace that I prayed over him.

Late in the afternoon he opened his eyes and I said what I most wanted to say.
"Dad, do you love Jesus?" He brightened a bit, focused briefly and answered,
 "I do, I love Jesus a whole lot."

Some question the purpose of a life like this. Or God's timing. Or if God is even there.
We cannot know God's ways, so much higher than ours.
In His creation lie the mysteries of His love, justice, compassion and mercy.
We catch glimpses, but cannot fully know what God knows.
We aren't supposed to. We are not God.

Dad's lengthy illness has also brought gifts. 
Over these nearly four years, we've had conversations I never imagined;
 a glimpse into the heart of a man I never knew.
Up until about a year ago, he answered many of my questions about
his childhood. About his parents, and theirs.
How the mail was delivered on horseback to their Arkansas farm
and how his father offered to send Dad to Yale.
I forged a deep, sweet relationship with my step-sister Anne,
renewed the relationship with my sister (also Anne) and
had lovely visits with my step-mother Sally.
And Dad's caregiver Lisa is an angel on earth.
 
I've spent hours alone, driving to and from Nashville, talking things over with God.
I wrestle with things before God; I do not wrestle with God,
as Oswald Chambers so beautifully reminds me.
(My Utmost for His Highest, December 16)
He also explains how God's permissive will is used
"to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives."
 
Perhaps the best gift of all is, I hope my own children
have seen vulnerabilities and a faithfulness in me.

It's been an emotionally exhausting  journey,
but also one of the sweetest.
In this I am content and thankful.
Perhaps my discovery of these gifts on this hard journey
is God's divine purpose for me.
 

Go safely, Dad. God will hold you as you once held me, safe and sure.
I'll see you someday. You know I love you.
 
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.        Isaiah 55:9

7 comments:

Diana Coon said...

I pray for enough patience, love , and yes humor to learn the lessons that stretch out before me. Thank you for sharing your oh so familiar thoughts....the same I experience as I deal with my Mother.

Dave Haller said...

Beautiful.

Laura Bowie said...

Todd and I totally know what you are going through as well as all the emotions you are feeling. We lost Todd's mother to Alzheimer's five years ago last week. What a cruel, cruel disease.
Praise to God who gets us through these very difficult times!


Genny Hart said...

Reflective, insightful, and makes me want to live and embrace each day being intentional. Simply beautiful.

Lisa Fowler said...

You have paved the way on so many experiences and I have cherished your thoughts and wisdom over the years. Prayers for you in the days ahead, friend.

Bonnie Hudson said...

Beautifully written, Barb. My heart aches for you and your dad and family. One day we'll have all the answers and see the big picture with all the beautiful details of what God is doing, and we cling to that. I can't remember for sure who said that life is like a tapestry. We see the back with all the various threads, but God sees the beautiful, finished work. He is faithful and good. God bless!

LPool said...

Nothing that I could write would be as eloquent as what you have written about your dad. I wish you peace as you travel this road.