Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15

Today is December 15.
The day four years ago that my father died.
A day that always reminds me that it's time to put up the Christmas tree.

It's really December 14 that is hard for me.
A day of recalling great hope and great hope dashed.
The day my father was released from cardiac ICU, just waiting for a room to open.
The day I said goodbye as I left to return home after a week in Texas.
It was a beautiful farewell, and it is a gift that neither of us knew that it was goodbye forever -- at least on this mortal coil.
There was a winter thunderstorm in Houston that day and the sky out the hospital windows was dark accept where lightning accented the clouds. I headed for the airport, at my mother's insistence, since Dad was cleared for release from ICU.

And then the phone calls began.
First the call to let my mother know that I had been able to catch a standby flight home. But she didn't answer. Much of the hospital was without cell service. Maybe she just couldn't hear her phone.
And then the call with my brother when I was changing planes in Dallas, telling me that he couldn't reach Mom or get the hospital to confirm that Dad was still in ICU. And another call trying to reach Mom.
Then the call from my brother when I had landed in San Diego, telling me that something had changed and they were keeping Dad in ICU.
And then the call just a bit later from my brother telling me that the doctor, the most renowned cardiac surgeon in Texas, had been called back to the hospital to care for Dad. It was now past midnight in Texas.
And then my call to the hospital asking that they send a chaplain wherever my mother was.
And then the call when I finally reached my mother, and she told me that the doctor was with her and had just told her that Dad had died. It was just past midnight in California.
There were other calls that night. The call where Mom asked my brother, who was heading from Austin back to Houston, to pull over so she could tell him our father had died. The call to me when Mom was safely in my brother's care. A call with my brother's wife the next morning confirming that my brother and mother had arrived safely.

December 14th is not the longest night of the year, but it was by far one of the longest nights of my life. And I always think of Dec. 14 as the day my father died, though the real date is today's, Dec. 15.

Four years ago, I awoke in San Diego after that long day of transition from hope to despair, from life to death. I awoke on Dec. 15, the day my father died, in that state of disbelief and false hope in those pre-conscious moments that maybe it had not happened at all.

I awoke to great grief and yet great hope. Great pain and yet great love.

Grief transforms profoundly. Those are the best words I have to describe the journey of these four years.

That first Dec. 15, in an unimaginable act of hope, we put up our Christmas tree. Dear friends had asked what I might need, and I said that there had not been time to decorate the house for Christmas and I wanted to decorate before we all headed back to Texas for Dad's funeral. Dear, dear friends and colleagues from church brought dinner and baked Christmas cookies and helped us light and decorate our tree. It was a hopeful act that brought blessing upon blessing. It wasn't until a year later that I realized we had decorated the tree on the same day that Dad had died. He would love that story.

When Mom visited at Thanksgiving this year, she brought me an ornament that I had given my Dad years ago. It is a pewter image of a great blue heron, a bird of special meaning to Dad, invoking many things, including his grandmother who loved the great blue herons, too.

It is December 15, and there has not been time to decorate the house for Christmas this year. Today seems like a perfect day to get a tree and bring a little Divine Light into my house and my heart in honor and memory of Dad.



Jeri said...

Divine Light it will be.

Courtney said...

watching your many transformations that year, and since, transformed me too. i always think of you and your family this time of year.

love to you.