Saturday, October 22, 2011

What a Roller Coaster! Wheeeeee!

Yesterday, I had this gut wrenching experience with my father at death's door, (see previous post). Definitely a low point.

Then today, I go over to his house, walk into the front room, and he's sitting up, speaking with a very strong voice, and gesturing, while participating in an online study group. I look down and see that his feet and ankles, which have been elephant sized for the past couple of months, (a crippling side effect of the steroids they give him to keep the tumor in check), are now skinny!

He hasn't been able to wear shoes, or even walk for more than a numb shuffle about the house, for ages. But now, his shoes are actually loose on his feet! He felt so good, he came out to lunch with us, leaving his wheelchair and walker behind, using only a cane.

While we sat eating, he actually started talking about ideas and dreams that he and his wife had, before he got sick. I'm hesitant to get my hopes up too high, but there's no denying a marked and rapid improvement in his condition and demeanor.

What or Whom do we have to thank for this miracle? I'm going to play it safe, and thank God!

His sister, who just came into town, is an Episcopal chaplain, and carries holy oil. She had blessed him with it last night, and prayed for his healing.

He's also taking at least two supplements, that are supposed to be mighty good stuff for immune function. The doctors are tweaking his medications, lowering the steroid dose, adding lasix. And then there are the dreams. He dreamed he died and was saying goodbye to us all. Then he woke up, and wondered what it meant, if perhaps he was "done dying now".

I certainly hope so.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What If This Was Your Last Goodbye?

Seriously. What would you say to someone you love?

Well, that you love them, of course. But, sometimes there are other important things that need saying.

My father has a brain tumor. He's been in various stages of getting ill and getting better. But this week was really difficult. He became convinced that he'd be leaving us soon. So, he called his brothers and sisters, and me, (his only child), to try to "get complete".

I don't have to tell you what a hard phone call that was! And, of course, I went over there as fast as I could. Because, whether or not his hunch is accurate, he was experiencing this, as if it were true, and that's big stuff. We cried with each other, talked a while, and hugged. But I left there feeling incomplete.

We are a pretty expressive family. So, I don't think anyone ever, truly, walks around feeling unloved. But somehow, when faced with the possibility of not getting another chance, to say what needs said, I found myself in some serious turmoil about it. I lost lots of sleep over it.

Then today, it was planned, that my step mom and I, (who share October birthdays), had a joint birthday celebration at their house. We planned it to coincide with a visit from two of my Dad's sisters.

My Step-mom cooked lunch, and my Mom bought us both cakes (Yeah, we all get along great.), and I had done all the gift shopping. I know my Step-mom's tastes fairly well, and made choices I thought my Dad would have made for her. He seemed pleased with the choices yesterday, but today he seemed to have forgotten that he'd ever seen them before. He still liked them.

It was a great party. Dad held up great. He enjoyed it more than he thought he would, and said he could even taste the food. Yay!

When I was going to say goodbye, he got teary again, and told me that he couldn't have asked for a better daughter, and that he was proud of me, and what a great job I'd done of parenting my kids.

He tried to say it was all my Mom's credit, that I learned it all from her. But I told him, no, that I had learned a whole lot from him. Just being the kind of person that he is, was such an incredible example to follow, because he was so noble. His honesty, and integrity where always so evident, in all his interactions with others. Even when he made mistakes, it was so clear, that he was trying very hard to do the right thing.

I told him that his being that kind of person, made navigating my life a lot easier. Because, it made bad choices unthinkable, and made my mistakes easier to admit. My Dad was always a really good man.

Even now, as he faces the possibility of death, he does it so unselfishly. He's trying so hard to learn whatever lessons are to be learned from it, and to do whatever he can for all those around him.

It was a very good, and tearful conversation. He said he would sleep well tonight, because of what I had told him. (I was crying pretty hard at this point.) Then, there was the chaos of my kids, my Mom, my husband, my aunts, all hugging and gathering all our stuff, and putting it in the car to leave.

It was hard to say goodbye. But as I was leaving, I realized that I really did feel complete. I guess we figured it out, (at least for the two of us), what needed to be said.

I don't want that to be my last goodbye. But, if it is, it was a really good one.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The New Normal

I haven't posted in months. The biggest news is that my father was diagnosed with brain cancer. He's always been very healthy, and his doctors always gave him the big thumbs up at every check up, to keep doing whatever he was doing, (which for him was daily exercise, stretching, vegetarian diet, spouted grains, no vices.) So, this diagnoses came to us as quite a shock.

They put him on steroids and that shrank the tumor and eased his pain, but when the biopsy came back, they used words that caused a chill in my core.

I'm a true believer in Jesus Christ, and I do believe He can heal anyone, anytime, even thousands of years beyond his time here on earth. But when something like this happens, words like the doctors used, served to challenge my least for a few days.

But thankfully, I've done a good job of reading bible stories to my daughter nearly every night. Because that week, after reading her some stories from the New Testament, where Jesus heals the sick, and raises people from the dead, my daughter comes up with the brilliant plan, that we should pray, and ask Jesus to come and heal her Grandad!

Well, I thought that was a spectacular idea. So, we set about to do that immediately. Now, don't misunderstand. I have been praying to God every day of my life since about 1989, and you can bet I was beating down God's door, ever since my Dad went to the hospital. But, something about the simple faith of a child, made me stop and wonder about the nature of my previous prayers.

Something about the pleas I was making to God, seemed different somehow. In those prayers, I was a lowly, insignificant human, praying to a distant God, who I knew had allowed lots of people die from cancer. This time, I was thinking of Jesus, the Jesus of the New Testament, who clearly did care, in a personal way about those who asked for his help. He always told them it was by their faith, that they were healed.

In one instance, a woman believes so strongly that if she can only touch his robe, as he passes her in the street, that she will be healed. She reaches out, and without any conscious act of will on his part, he says, "I felt the power go out from me." and asks who has touched him, even though there were many there touching and jostling about him in the street. She admits it was her, and he tells her that her faith has healed her.

This story is, for me, the most amazing and hopeful story in the bible. If a person can, through their own faith, reach out to God, though this conduit of His Son Jesus, without the Son's conscious will, then it seems to me, that the physical presence of his body is irrelevant, and that it's possible to do the same thing, though our faith, even today.

Well, I'd already had this revelation in the past, but for some reason, I was still in a more habitual state of holding God way out there, in my mind. My daughter's prayer made it so much more immediate, and brought this idea, back into my mind, and enabled me to pray in a new way.

No longer on a tentative static filled line to God, I was asking Jesus himself, who's loving character was revealed to me in the New Testament, and who lives our hearts today, to be the conduit, to reach out to my dad, with my faith in His power to heal, and touch him, and heal him completely.

Then, I hugged my daughter, and turned out the light, and went to bed, feeling truly hope filled, for the first time, since all this occurred.

The next day, I went to see my Dad. I was astonished to see him leap out of his chair to greet me and hug me!

I must say, that previous to this, his physical and cognitive decline was so rapid, as to cause me to think that the 4 months the doctors had estimated he had left, were a poor estimation. It looked more like weeks, to me. He had not slept more than an hour or two for the past month. His body functions were shutting down. He was in bed nearly all the time, and he ate almost nothing, and the little he did eat was only to ease his wife's worries, not from any appetite. Also his skin was nearly lobster red and peeling, as if he'd been sunburned, all over his entire body. (We are still not sure what caused this symptom, but it was severe.)

I was there for several hours. During the course of that time, I watched his color, thinking and clarity of speech improve dramatically. By the end of my visit, my Dad was standing in the kitchen, raising his hands in the air, singing an old hymn about "Billows of Love", and he and I began a gentle waltz around the kitchen.

He then sat down and ate a giant plate of beans, brown rice, and broccoli. I was witnessing a miracle.

Later, I checked my messages. At 9am he had called to say that he had really slept for the first time, since all this started. He'd had a dream in which a traffic director was standing in front of "Hell Hospital" and "Suzanne's House", and directed him to go to the latter, and he did. He said he felt like he'd turned a corner in his recovery.

That all happened last Thursday, and I am happy to report that he is increasingly better. He got 6 hour stretches of sleep the past two days and he is feeling so much better! He is getting back to doing some of his online work, and is today, ready to get out and do some errands. He wants to go shopping at Costco and then get a hair cut. He has been given a wheelchair, so he doesn't tire himself out too much.

My son and I are going to pick him up now. I'm so excited!