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Tonight, My Dad Flew Away

family, Life as it is, Love, Spiritual Journey

The phone rang just a little over an hour ago. It was my step-mom calling to tell me that my father had passed away and was now in a better place.

My Dad
A photo from Dad’s 80th birthday party earlier this year

I had visited earlier in the evening, and the visit began with security stopping me from rounding to corner to my dad’s room as they were moving one of the residents out of the hospice after they had died. The guard commented that it was four of them that day, but wouldn’t tell me who it was or what room number they were from. I was scared it was my dad – he had already stayed with us much longer than the doctors suggested a couple of weeks ago when this journey began.

When I could finally move on, I found my dad asleep in his room. I felt relief to see him still there. Unbidden, I remembered Dylan Thomas’s poem, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I had the strongest desire to both cheer for him and to weep. I felt the impact of the thought behind the line of “Curse, Bless me now…” as I didn’t want him to stay and suffer but I was still blessed by his continued fight. Right or wrong, I needed to see him wanting to stay here a bit longer, no matter how prepared I knew him to be to go through that door. There should be some sort of barrier there, some sort of guardrail – or at least speedbump – between life and death. I know we all will cross that line, but I needed to see the resistance there.

He couldn’t speak tonight, and I realized on my drive home, I had already heard him say my name for the last time yesterday. While there, I visited with my step-mom and got her something to eat. I held my dad’s hand and left a long and lingering kiss on his warm forehead before leaving – promising to be back again at the same time tomorrow as I had been doing. I told him I loved him.

Last week he had all of his children by his bedside at the hospice, and we all discussed his plans for his funeral. He requested his friends’ bluegrass band to play, and said he wanted them to play, I’ll Fly away. My dad turned 80 years old earlier this year and the band played for that occasion as well. When they were finished, my dad raised his hand and asked them to sing that song then as well. I think we all felt some foreshadowing at the time, but he was having fun and the party was a joy, and really, it’s a very happy song.

I’ll Fly Away

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away (in the morning)
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away

My dad has now flown away. I am grateful for all that he taught me. Even tonight, no longer able to speak, he was teaching me about how precious life is. And he teaches me still as I listen to the song now on my MP3 player. I feel sorrow and loss, but I also feel gratitude and joy as well. It’s a strange mix, and I m grateful to have the chance to share this with y’all.

I love you, dad. Fly high and free to that land where joys will never end.

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The Vulnerable Heart

family, Life as it is, Love, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

At last night’s Lifeway meeting (our alternative peer group), the topic was on the importance of staying vulnerable. Several people shared, but as a parent of an addicted teen I have my own experiences I can share. One of them was last night after the meeting and again today.

Victoria's Heart

Last night I found that my daughter has been stealing spare change from my room. Not a huge cause for concern, we have consequences to help take care of that. But then she came to my room and gave me a long hug and kiss and I sent her back to her room to bed. After she left, I realized that she had manipulated me and the situation to steal my keys during her visit so she could get into my computer room and the Internet.

So today she has disconnected her stereo and her computer and gone back under consequences by placing them in the storeroom so I can lock them up until she starts moving in the right direction again. It’s hard to just let the consequences be the only consequences – I am hurt by her behavior. It brings back old tapes and reminds me of a time in my past when loving actions were a lure to get my guard to drop so that cutting remarks could pierce more deeply.

There’s a quote by C.S. Lewis I tried to share last night in the meeting and did not do a very good job paraphrasing it. Taking a few minutes to look, this is what he said that spoke so clearly to me:

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” -C.S. Lewis

I choose today to keep loving my daughter – to stay vulnerable to her. I choose to remind myself that feelings are not facts and that her consequences in the form of loss of her stereo and computer take care of the situation in full and to trust this program that has helped my family so much. For me to distance myself from her in the name of guarding my heart is to send a message that it is her I have a problem with, and not her behavior.

This is incorrect. It is her that I love and her behavior that I will not accept.

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