Monday, February 19, 2018

You're the light through my window from afar

I think we all float through life knowing that, unfortunately, we will lose people close to us. From a young age, we learn that people die, it's sad, and it will keep happening. No one is protected from this.

I've had a lot of people close to me die. Some were tragic, some were sudden, some were much too young. And yet, none of these prepared me to lose my dad.

I have spent the last four and a half years wondering when my dad's cancer would get too strong. We knew upon diagnosis that his cancer was strong, and that while he could find ways to beat it, it would always come back. My dad fought hard. He overcame every odd that was against him. With every new medication introduced, he willingly gave it a try. He and cancer were in a war against one another, one full of twists and turns. Eventually the cancer found a way to defeat. This does not mean that my dad wasn't strong. It doesn't mean he gave up. It simply means that the cancer was stronger. Way too strong.

When my dad entered into hospice care, I really started to "prepare" to lose him. I put that in quotes because I realize now that there is truly no way to prepare. You think you're ready, but you're not.

And then it happened. After 3 days of what they call "actively dying", my dad took his last breaths at 5 am on a Saturday morning, while most of the rest of the world was sleeping. It didn't seem real. It didn't seem like he could actually be gone.

It seems crazy to think that my dad has joined my army of angels. Even though I knew this day would come, I still can't quite grasp the idea that he's standing with Laurence and Susan and my grandparents and all the other people I have lost.

He's shown me that he's still with us, though. There have been flickering lights and deer and dreams. There was a song, one that is not well known, playing loudly in Target, just hours after I had been listening to it on my phone, thinking about the lyrics and how they related to death. There was the Target cashier who, as I was about to pull away, said "Wait, I feel like I have to tell you a dad joke!". Sure, each of these things could be a coincidence, or have a logical explanation, but I am choosing to believe that my dad is giving me signs that he is okay.

Watching my dad fade away was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The man we once knew as "the big guy" became thin and weak, his skin grey and the blue in his eyes started to dim. During all of this, I couldn't understand why it went on for so long. If God was ready to take him, why didn't he just take him? Man, those weeks were rough. I cried out so many times. I prayed for trust. I know now that it was my dad fighting back, just as he always had before. He wanted to stay on this earth as long as he could, just to be with us.

There is a small part of me that feels guilty now, wondering if I prayed too hard for God to take him, worried that my dad felt like I was pushing him away. That's something I am going to have to work through, and in the meantime I have made a point to tell my dad how much I love him every chance that I can, because I know he can hear me.

But I do truly believe that my dad is home now, and even though we don't have him physically on earth and that breaks my heart, he IS in a better place. I know that's one of those things that people say after someone dies, but I do truly believe it. And one day, we'll join him in this home.

I will miss my dad more than I can possibly express. He was, without a doubt, a wonderful man, husband, and father. We are all so lucky to have had him. He made an everlasting impact on our lives, and even though it doesn't feel quite real yet that he is gone, we will carry on his legacy in our own ways.

I will likely be blogging a little bit more as I process thoughts. I may share stories of my dad or stories of grief. I may tell you about all the way he's reminding me that he is still here. I just know that I have to write. My dad was one of my biggest cheerleaders for writing, he read my blog posts faithfully. For him, I'll let the words that are flowing through me out. Maybe they will help someone else. I hope so.

For now, I'll leave you with the song I mentioned up above that started playing in Target- loudly- just a few hours after I listened to it on my phone with a new perspective of the lyrics.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A gentle reminder

I’m a fixer. I like to fix things. I like to help my friends and family and my coworkers. When I see a problem, I work to fix it. 

There’s so much going on in my life right now that I simply can’t fix. I can’t take away my dads illness. I can’t take away my moms stress. I can’t keep my apartment as neat and tidy as I would like. I can’t see my husband as much as we both would like. I can’t be at work. I can’t always be at my parents house but I can’t always be at my own house either. I can’t workout as much as I want to. I can’t hang out with my friends. 

And it’s weighing on me. I’m used to being in control (for the most part) and able to balance giving a little bit of myself to everyone around me. Right now it’s more like whack a mole. I temporarily “fix” one thing, while I million other things pop up. 

And while I KNOW that no one around me expects me to fix everything, I put an immense pressure on myself to be the fixer. So I start to feel guilty. Things left undone or unsolved drive me absolutely crazy.

Tonight I sat in these thoughts for a few moments. I kept hearing the same phrases over and over again running through my mind “give it up” “let it go”, and “surrender”.

I have to let it go. I have to know that I am only one person. That I am not going to be able to be there for everyone else right now, and that’s okay. That my work can be put on hold. That my friends can (hopefully) be there on the sidelines, supporting me and waiting for me. That my husband is the most understanding and kind person I know and that he doesn’t feel like I am abandoning him.

Why are we always the toughest on ourselves? Why is it so hard to block those nasty, untrue thoughts that come into our brain? Why is it so hard to let go? And to forgive ourselves?

And so, Megan, the next time you start to feel like you aren’t doing enough, remember this:

You’re the only you that you’ve got.
You deserve to be cherished and protected just as you cherish and protect those in your life.
Be as gentle and kind with your heart as you are with others.
Let go.
And take one step at a time. 
You cannot plan too far ahead, not now. 
You can only live by each moment.
The world is not going to stop, that’s true.
But you can stop.
And you can come back to your to do lists when the time is right.
For now, just take small steps.
And deep breaths.

And know that you are doing enough, and that you are enough.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Small Miracles

When my dad was first diagnosed with cancer, he started to use the term "small miracles". He would encourage us to look for small miracles in every day life. I took him somewhat seriously, and it changed the way I looked at life. I try to spend less time thinking about the "next big thing" and more time enjoying each moment, finding gratitude in every day, and viewing hard experiences as learning experiences. I don't always excel at this, of course. I am human. But I've tried.

Here's what my dad may not always realize: he is a miracle. The last four and a half years have been a miracle. I don't use that word lightly, either. But looking at all he has overcome, when all the odds were against him, is a miracle. 

With the guidance of my dad's oncologist, we have recently decided to transition him to hospice. Certainly not an easy choice for anyone, and we are each dealing with our emotions in our own way. At the same time, I am able to recognize the gift we've been given. 

First of all, I recognize how lucky I am to call him dad. I've always known this, but seeing the comments of well wishes has further validated this statement. So many friends of mine, my brother, and my sister feel very close to my dad. He has always been the kind of guy who takes other people in. He knows our friends, and he loves them. He knows my mom's friends, and he loves them. 

I recognize the gift of time. Time to spend with him, reflecting, praying, conversing. Time to tell him how much we love him, and assure him that we will all be okay.

I recognize the gift of community, and how it has become so strong over the last four years. We couldn't have fought this battle alone, and we never had to. Our friends, family, church community, and co-workers have joined our army, and it's been a beautiful thing to receive so much love and empathy. 

I recognize the gift that my dad made it to my wedding. We had our doubts, early in the springtime. But he pushed through, and he made it there to help get me down the aisle. I will cherish the memory of that experience for as long as I live.

I realize that I am painting a picture of one that is content and at peace. I assure you, I am struggling. But I am fully capable of struggling and recognizing the good, all at the same time. It's complicated and exhausting and I am nearly always on the verge of tears. But another gift that I have is my strength. And I know that with my strength and the army of people with and behind me, I will forge on. 

Knowing what I know about grief, I am fairly certain that one of the most challenging parts about all of this will be that the outside world will go on as normal. It isn't going to stop because of what my family is going through. There's still work to be done, problems to be solved. I will want to hit a pause button but I will not be able to, and will have to go on balancing it all, envious of everyone else who gets to live a "normal" life. 

I'm not sure how else to end this post, other than to say thank you for reading, thank you for understanding, and thank you for your gift of friendship. Please continue to keep my family in your prayers during this time. I would especially ask for prayers for my mom.  Also, give hugs. I like hugs.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Favorite Tweets- 2017

A few of my friends always seem to enjoy this post, so here we are. No long introduction, other than to say that this year has been a rough one for our country, and Twitter was both toxic and comforting at the same time. Here are some of my favorite tweets of the year.

And that's a wrap, folks!