Lately, I fall asleep by 10 am with tight muscles, sore eyes, and a worried mind. When I wake up, I slowly go through the motions, forcing myself to accomplish the tasks of the day and to stay on track. I try not to worry about my dad or check my phone every 2 seconds. I want so badly to type all of my dad's symptoms into google and spend hours doing research and reading articles so that maybe, just maybe, I can figure this out.
In the afternoons, I head to the hospital to visit with dad for a few hours. I am never sure what I will find when I walk in. Today I didn't get there- I worked too late and was too physically exhausted to make it there. Cue guilt.
I know what one of the Sisters of Mercy, Sr. Rochelle, would say to me if I were telling her about my dad.
She would gently ask me "Megan, where is the grace in this situation?".
To some, it may seem impossible to find grace in this situation. And, honestly, sometimes it seems impossible to me, too. I am constantly fighting off tears or anger. But there IS grace.
What IS grace exactly? Grace is a gift from God. I think of it as God's influence or God's steady hand in keeping us strong.
One of the best definitions of Grace is below, from Paul Zahl:
Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.
That first line is the one that hits me most. Because right now, I feel like I have nothing to give. I'm exhausted in all possible forms, including spiritually. I found myself mad at God, even. WHY is this happening and WHY isn't God fixing it? WHY is my dad, one of God's most very special children, suffering? It doesn't seem FAIR and I don't feel like praying about it because I'm too busy being angry.
And yet, God continues to embrace me and show me grace. I feel so incredibly deeply loved by God in these moments, even if I am not talking to Him much. I see the love in other people. I hear it in the words of encouragement. I see it in the gentle ways the nurses and medical staff talk to us or to my dad. I feel it in the hand squeezes. It's there. Some days I have to look harder than others, but it is there. And it is beyond beautiful.
God has also blessed me with the most incredible family in the world. Everyone who hears my story says the same thing- "your family sounds so strong". We are. We're strong, we're close, and we are each others biggest cheerleaders. The genuine love I have for each of my family members is beyond words. When I look at each of them, I am filled with pride. My mom, who is learning her new role as a caregiver, has rocked my world these past few weeks. She has a strength in her that she never knew she had. Somehow she keeps going. Her love for my dad is inspiring and evident in everything that she does. She is teaching me the true meaning of love and marriage. My sister, who is also a mother to a soon to be 2 year old, has balanced Ryan, hospital visits, and a very tough/emotional job. I don't know how she does it, because by the time I get home every night I can barely open my eyes. I admire her strength and flexibility, as well as her patience and wisdom. And then there is my brother, who is dealing with all of this from a different state. He did come in for a few days, but I can't imagine how difficult it must be to be in constant waiting for a phone call or a text with an update. The second my dad is lucid we try to call JP so that he can see it or hear it. JP has managed to make us all laugh amongst this, too.
And we can't forget Dave, who has helped with some of the nitty gritty stuff like mail and bills...and Sara, who has opened our eyes to holistic methods and relaxation techniques. Of course, there is Tom, who has run errands and been an emotional support for my mom and I.
I've learned so much during this hell. I've learned about my OWN strength and abilities. I've learned about the medical world. I've learned the true value of making memories and of holding on tight to your loved ones. I have learned that people like to help, and that if you give them a task, they will do it.
I've learned just how much my dad means to me.
And how desperate I am to have him back.