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What My Dad’s Death Teaches Me About Trusting What Is

March 6, 2015

It was a cold, crisp evening in February when my brother, Cory, sister-in-law Amy, baby nephew and I travelled in our vehicle to the hospital. We had been there earlier that day to see my Dad, but we received a call that it was time to come back.

Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer exactly 9 months ago to that very day. His cancer had spread to the liver, kidney, and bones (along the spine). He also contracted C Difficile and pneumonia. We had received two other similar calls within the past month. But against all odds, my Dad continued to survive. Although this time was different, his kidneys were shutting down.

On the way to the hospital, we sat in stillness in the car. It felt like the vehicle was moving in slow motion. I could hear the steadiness of my breath. I felt my heart pounding from the anxiousness of what we could find when we arrived.

In the midst of the chaos swirling around inside of me, I couldn’t help but notice one magnificent star shining above the hospital. It looked like a beacon in the dark sky, leading us along our way. Each night since my Dad’s diagnosis, I prayed for him to heal. I wanted a miracle so desperately to occur. But this time, I made a wish on the star for my Dad to find peace that night. Little did I know that at the time of my wish, my Dad had just passed away.

As we walked into the hospital, I shared my wish with my brother. He said he felt the same and wanted Dad to find peace. My Father had fought a long, hard battle and we couldn’t be more proud of him. But to wish for him to keep going now felt selfish. We needed to set him free, although I knew it was going to hurt something awful. I had no idea what our lives would look like without my Dad.

When we entered the lobby, it was silent. No one else was there. It felt like the universe had backed away to give us our space, our privacy, to feel the news we would be delivered. Before we could go up to his room, Mom approached us. She had been waiting downstairs in the lobby with a nurse. My heart sank. I tried to read her expressions, her body language, anything to give me immediate answers. What was going on? Where was my Dad? She told us Dad had passed away. I stood there frozen while my youngest brother comforted my Mom. How could he be gone? I felt numb.

I ran upstairs to see him. I frantically gowned up to go into the isolation unit as if time was of the essence. When I entered the room, he was with my other brother, Craig, and his wife, Ericka. My Dad looked the same as he had when I left him earlier that day, and his hands were still warm. I laid my head down on his chest and closed my eyes as slow, warm tears streamed down my face.

I wanted to know what had happened the moment of his death. What was it like? I was hungry to be taken back to that pivotal moment I had missed. I was told that before my Dad’s death, Craig had seen a Bible and opened it to a random page and began to read. I am not sure where this Bible came from as I hadn’t seen it before in the room and we hadn’t read him anything out of a Bible before. The page Craig turned to and read to him was so fitting. It was the first verse of Psalm 4: “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.” Mom looked at Dad’s face and stopped Craig from continuing with the next verse. Dad’s face became ashen-coloured and then he took two deep breaths, the second one he never exhaled.

I wanted to be there when my Dad passed away.  I had been at Mom and Dad’s house for several days leading up to his death. Although my Dad spent most of his time sleeping that week, there were some beautiful moments when his tired, beautiful sky-blue eyes opened. I had told him how much I love him. And, that it will be so hard for me to let him go, but I trust God and his plan for us. I said I believe in Guardian Angels and will be watching for him. I let him know that we were not going to leave him, someone would be with him the whole time at the hospital. I hugged him and kissed him. I knew we needed to let him go and give him permission to leave us. I think he was surviving by the grace of God along with pure grit and a strong will to live. He loved his life and his family. He didn’t want to let us go as much as we didn’t want him to leave.

I felt some deep sadness around wondering why my Dad got cancer and had to die so soon at the age of 66 years. I also felt sad about not being there when he died. I had been at the hospital so much that week and it was close to my parents’ house where I was staying that night. Why couldn’t I have been there to say good-bye?

After I said good-bye to Dad’s body, I went to the Quiet Room at the hospital by myself. I closed my eyes and focused on the present moment. I wanted to take it all in. I wanted to take any pieces of my Dad’s spirit lingering in that hospital into me. I wanted to be close to him, to let all of my emotions settle inside.  To be held by him one more time.

I still have so many questions about spirituality and life after death, but I know that I felt intense peace sitting by myself in that moment. I now understand very clearly that there is a bigger source at play in this world. I have spent so many countless moments, worrying about what I now understand are things that I really can’t control.

For me, I have seen this theme around ‘letting go’ in my life over the past few years. I believe my Dad’s death deepened the lesson to ‘trusting what is.’ This means that I do my best to be true to myself and then I need to trust that I don’t have all the answers and some things are just meant to be even though I don’t understand them. I can try to force something to fit or I can flow with it, accept and do my best.

In the days and weeks following my Dad’s death, I began to see how this lesson applied to all areas of my life. After we returned home from the funeral, the ‘check engine’ light came on in both of our vehicles. What are the chances of that? I became frustrated. What a pain! We had children’s activities, work and appointments.  We ended up taking our cars into the dealership a total of 5 times over the 10 days following my Dad’s funeral. It did seem quite strange.

In the midst of my frustration, I began to think about this concept of trusting what is as it applied to regular everyday stuff. What if this annoyance was part of our journey? Maybe we are meant to meet someone through this process. Or, maybe this has nothing to do with us and we are supporting someone else’s journey that we may cross paths with through this experience. Maybe this situation was just to help take our minds off of our grief for a few days. Sure, we could change dealerships. And we need to think of what we can do to help the situation, but worrying doesn’t change anything. I do feel there was a deeper lesson at play here. Bad things happen. Things we don’t expect or like happen. We feel uncomfortable, angry and frustrated with others and ourselves at times. That is life. But, we do have the power to change our perspective from one of stress and worrying to believing that we are in exactly the right spot for ourselves in that moment and experiencing whatever it is that will best serve us. Suddenly those moments of frustration can turn into moments of gratitude as well as a curiosity to learn.

Trust what is meant to be. Live life in the way that feels right to you and then trust that the people, opportunities or lack of at times, is all meant to be. Even the hard times could have meaningful lessons for us. These lessons apply to everything.This perspective can change so much of how you view your life. When I approach life with a feeling of deep trust that everything is meant to be and is taken care of, it gives me a feeling of peace, protection and love.

I am blessed, just as we all are. I am so thankful for my Dad who has taught me so much, but never as much as I learned from him in the last month of his life.  He has shown intense love for his family; the will to beat the odds no matter what the outcome; living in the moment; kindness in the face of pain; a deep level of peace and acceptance of what is no matter how big the obstacles, and a raw vulnerability with such grace.

And to my Mother, I am so proud of you. You took care of Dad like a pro. The love the two of you shared is the stuff of story books. You are a beautiful soul.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2015 10:25 am

    What a beautiful post Carey. Many of us need to be reminded to live in the moment and in the way that feels right to us and to our families. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your dad.

    • March 31, 2015 10:45 am

      Thanks Melissa for your kinds words. Loss is something we all experience – loss of a job, a marriage, our health or the life of a loved one. The more we can share our journeys, the more we help others as well as ourselves by taking the time to really feel our feelings. Take care. Carey-Ann

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