Oh how I wish we could go back in time to when my dad was healthy. Back to the days of ignorant bliss. Back to the days when we didn’t know about coronary artery disease, quadruple bypass surgeries, or post-op complications.
But this is where we are now.
Oh how I wish we could jump ahead in time to the day when he will feel healthy again. I hold those illusive future days out like some kind of golden carrot—willing him to just keep moving so that he will eventually be able to grab the carrot. I pray for him to feel stronger and pain-free. I long for the books to be right when they say life will feel more normal within 4-6 weeks.
But this is where we are now.
How I wish I could be in two places at once and be able to remain by his side.
But this is where we are now—separated during this difficult time.
I was able to be with him the night before surgery. I was surprised at how good he looked—albeit he was attached to an IV which was giving him a steady stream of nitroglycerin. We visited, we laughed, we hugged.
I was with him the morning of surgery. We cried, we shared nervous laughter, we prayed.
I was with him three hours after an 8 hour surgery. I shook from the shock of seeing him hooked up to an array of tubes and IV’s. He mouthed “I love you,” the ventilator inhibiting any speech. He looked so vulnerable. I felt so scared.
I was with him the day after surgery. We were all relieved that the breathing tube was able to come out—16 hours later than they had wanted it to. He looked broken and battered. I felt nervous and anxious—is this normal? will he fully recover? was this really the only option?
I was with him two days after surgery. That was one of the worst days of my life. We were told he would look much better. We were assured he would feel much better. We were given expectations. We were set up—to fall. We walked in and had to catch the breath that immediately left us. He was sitting in a chair with what looked like a jet-fighter mask covering his face. He was having oxygen forced into his lungs to combat the fluid that was trying to take residence there. But his eyes….his eyes were not right. I know his eyes. I have seen his eyes twinkle with laughter, fill with tears, sparkle with mischief. But the eyes I saw that day held just an empty void inside them. He did not seem to recognize us—or if he did, he was far too exhausted to acknowledge us. Paralyzing fear gripped my heart. What has happened? He is supposed to be better, stronger! The nurse explained that he had not slept more than four hours since surgery. He assured us that what we were seeing was not a stroke but extreme dangerous exhaustion. He had to sleep. He just had to. We sat with him, trying to hold it together. Wanting to run, yet needing to stay. My mom, aunt and I sat around him silently praying, pleading with God to lift us from this nightmare—to life him from this nightmare.
We were told we needed to leave. But instead of upward motion, my knees propelled me downward. I knelt before the man who years earlier had escorted me before the Throne. I prayed for sleep to overtake his body. I pleaded with the Giver of true rest to grant precious sleep to my daddy. Tears slipped from my eyes as I begged God to bring life back to the eyes I have loved for so long.
I was with him three days after surgery. That day started much as the day before. Defeat taunted me. Fear gripped me. Anger beat a steady rhythm in my heart. He was confused. He was not hearing well. He was trapped in a realm where pain dances with pain-killers. I sat in a chair, but I’ve never wanted to run more in my life. This is not my daddy! I don’t want to see him like this! I started to rise, but my mom began speaking to him. About normal everyday things. “What in the world is she talking about that for?” I was confused and angry, but I felt glued to my chair. Minutes ticked by and she continued to talk to him. As she talked it was as if a light was turned on in his eyes. A slow dawning awoke his features and he listened. Within an hour he was sitting up, eating his first few bites of food in five days. His eyes, still dulled from the trauma of surgery, began to twinkle. We talked, we laughed, we listened. I witnessed my daddy emerge from the cocoon he had been in. I was elated.
I was with him the day he moved from ICU to a step down floor. I held my breath as he walked 75 feet—a marathon to someone whose chest had just been cut open. I cringed as he got into bed, seeing the pain on his face caused by that simple, yet horribly difficult, task.
And I was with him for a few hours the next day. But this time I would not be coming back to say goodnight. I had to fly back home. I have never felt so torn in my life. My kids needed me home. I had been away from them longer than I ever had before. They were concerned about Granddaddy and they knew I needed to be there, but they missed me and longed for me to be home.
“Go,” both my parents told me. “We have to figure this out on our own. There’s really not that much you can do.”
Go? With dad looking like this?
Go? Knowing that he has a tremendously long road ahead of him?
Go? Knowing my mom has an autoimmune disorder and might have a flare-up?
What kind of daughter just goes? Pain seared my heart. I had held it together for days. I had prayed when others couldn’t. I had stayed calm so others could fall apart. But now the tears fell. I was powerless to stop them. “Daddy, I can’t leave you.”
“Go, baby. I want you to go home to your babies.”
I sobbed. Tears fell onto my dad’s forehead. I wanted to crawl in bed with him like I did when I was a little girl. I wanted him to tell me everything was going to be ok. I wanted….oh, I wanted….”Promise you will be ok?” I managed to ask through my tears.
“I promise,” was his reply.
“Go,” this command did not come from my earthly father. This word was spoken by my heavenly One.
“Lord, I can’t. You ask too much.”
“I AM with him. Go.”
My will bowed to His. I kissed my daddy’s forehead, squeezed his hand. And did the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do….I left. My mom was right outside the door to hold me. I had tried to be so strong for her, but now she gave her strength to me.
We cried, she prayed, I calmed.
Then I got on a plane and flew hundreds of miles away from my daddy.
Away from being able to physically help.
Away from the two people who carried me through so many hard times.
This is where we are now.
And the only thing that keeps me moving today, is that God is where we are. He is with my parents and He is with me. His arms are holding us. His strength is filling us. His peace is covering us. And He is far more able to help my dad right now than I am.
Yet, my heart still aches and longs to be in two places at once. So if you figure out how to do that, please let me know!