It’s quiet here in my parent’s house. Too quiet. My dad is lying in his bed, struggling to find a comfortable position for his weak body that now holds tubes to drain his bladder and kidneys. My mom has gone to run errands, and we no longer want to leave him alone, in case he would try to get out of bed unassisted.
So much runs through my mind each day, as I’m sure is always the case when a loved one is close to death. Sometimes the memories flow chronologically. I recall the many times, as a child, I jumped into my dad’s arms when he came home from work. He would pick me up and toss me from side to side, until one day I was simply too big for him to lift. Other times the memories come randomly, like the other night when I was making dinner. As I shredded the beets for a salad, I remember how I only recently found out my dad hates beets. Then I project ahead and wonder if I will always remember what his voice sounds like. How he smells. His facial expressions. His snoring that could wake up the entire household.
Through this entire journey, however, I feel so blessed. It makes me wonder why anyone would choose euthanasia and miss out on the powerful, sweet memories we are creating even now. I walked into his room today and asked if he needed anything. “Yes, kiss my hand,” he said, as he raised his left hand toward me. “That’s easy,” I responded, as I held his hand to my lips and then rubbed his frigid fingers.
On Christmas Eve, when he was a bit stronger, I went into their bedroom to tell him we were leaving and that I loved him. “Pray for me,” he said, “I’m scared.” I crawled onto my parent’s bed and held his hand. We cried together and prayed together. I told him how we would be okay and how he would be with Jesus and one day we would join him there. I told him how I often imagined I was lying in the palm of Jesus’ hand when I was scared or sad. He told me that was a lovely imagine. He said I had been a wonderful daughter and I told him he’d been the best father. He told me to be there for my mom, and we talked about our backpacking trip and how special it was. Then he said, “I love you,” over and over, as he stroked the top of my head. I was both his baby and his caretaker.
I understand that it’s hard to see loved ones deteriorate. There was not an ounce of me that wanted to go to the hospital this week for what would obviously be my dad’s final appointment with his oncologist. I wanted to run through those hospital hallways, out the doors, and back to my car instead of facing the doctor as he said there’s nothing else they can do except try to keep him comfortable.
I understand how hard it is to be present and face reality. Focusing at work is hard. Doing daily chores are hard. Being there for others is hard.
I understand that it may seem easier to skip straight to death and avoid all of this affliction and pain. But why? WHY would anyone give up the opportunity to walk into suffering with someone they love? Why lose the chance to see how God will meet you, provide for you and carry you?
I’ve had many beautiful moments in my life. Many of those moments have been a result of the love and care and graciousness of my dad. While I wish he didn’t have to suffer, I would not trade a moment of these past few months, and days and soon only moments that I get to witness God’s transformation and change in this man so many have loved. Scripture says it best, in 2 Corinthians 4:17: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.