Thursday, August 26, 2010

Long Day

Abou Ben Adhem

By James Henry Leigh Hunt

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight in his room,

Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

An Angel writing in a book of gold:

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

And to the Presence in the room he said,

"What writest thou?" The Vision raised its head,

And with a look made of all sweet accord

Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."

"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"

Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,

But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,

Write me as one who loves his fellow men."

The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

It came again with a great wakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,

And, lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!

The clock's digital numbers broke the darkness. 4:30am. It was still dark outside. Not a creature was stirring, not even the cats who like to roam around the house looking for the most comfortable bed to settle into. But not for long.

This dream wasn't funny. When Dad called me he was genuinely disturbed. He was seeing destruction all around him - roads torn up, house crumbled, dead people all about.
"This must be hell," he cried. "It must be the payment for something I've done in my life."

And so began another, intense morning. After some talking, I was able to assure Dad that everything was still standing, we were safe. I read to him from the hospice book that these "incidents" are his body's way of detaching. And I did my best to convince him that the God of his understanding loves him. Eventually he laid back down, then asked that his family be called to rally round.

I was hesitant to wake up my sisters. It's scary to get a call at that hour. Much as Dad wanted to go to the next life, it didn't look to me like he was going anywhere. I figured I could let my sisters sleep. There's that ol' Merry Me to the rescue - everyone's rescue -Jesus complex for you. Why I thought I could determine the moment between life and death, I don't know. I was going by the book. He didn't have a rattle in his chest. His fingers weren't a different color. He was just my Dad, the engineer attending to the problem in his usual way - with precision and order, the reins in his hands.

I finally got the clarity that Dad needed to have his family - on his way out or just feeling needy - the reason was not for me to say. So I woke my sister who was sleeping like a baby in the living room. We sat on either side of Dad's bed, holding his hands. He spoke to us of his life's concerns. He praised my mom, said she was just what he needed in a wife. He said he didn't care that none of us had walked on the moon - we are good to people and animals. He recited part of a poem. Then asked again about my sisters, so I called in the troops. We circled the wagons around his bed. With Alan Jackson singing country gospel songs, one of my sisters clapping her hands to the beat, another looking like she needed something to eat, another trying to decide whether or not to change airline reservations, the dog jumping on the bed to nuzzle Dad's neck and me trying to direct a play that had no script, we waited. And waited.

Then one by one, we moved about the house. When all else fails my motto is to start cooking. Dad decided he could eat some sausage - round, beefy sausage. Sounded like patties to me - turned out he wanted links.

The bath lady came. If this is to be his last day on earth, he'll go to heaven clean shaven with strains of Blessed Assurance on his lips.

The hospice nurse came. All his vital signs are still good. His heart is ready to let go, his mind is still controlling the situation. Each time, however, he gets a little closer. He's tired. I don't know how much longer he can hold on.

The day wore on. Dad slept. Daughters went to work or wandered around in a sleep-deprived fog. It's somewhat prophetic that I read this last night:

"... the fatigue alone can be crippling.
Not just physical fatigue - if anything,
the emotional fatigue is often worse.
'You work and you work, and you care and you care,
but tomorrow you're going to start all over again.'*
You don't see any progress. You don't see any way out.
All you do see is the decline, and sometimes you almost feel
as if you're on the way down too."

There's no denying that I am tired. I'm anxious, weepy and a little crabby. But right now I don't feel I'm on my way down. I feel like I'm walking along side my father, accompanying him to the place where he'll make his transition. It's his walk, I'm just here to hold his hand. I was reminded this morning, I'm not alone. I don't have to carry the whole load. Like my father who is reluctant to let go of his earthly responsibilities, I am also holding tight to the reins of my caregiving position even when there are many hands willing to lighten my load. Funny how the lessons keep coming along with the fatigue.

Thanks for listening.
Merry Me

Abou Ben Adhem: Dad could only recite the first couple lines of this poem this morning. I don't think it's a coincidence that these words, memorized over 75 years ago, are the ones that came to his mind as he lay on what he thought was his death bed ready to be judged by his Maker.

* This quote is by Carolyn Jaffe, a staff nurse at the Hospice of Metro Denver, is found on page 86 of When Parents Die, by Edward Myers.


Molly said...

Thinking of you and my cousins this morning. Glad you each have your siblings with you.

terri said...

mary, i'm so carryin' you in my heart. figured it was time i actually
'said' that out loud to you here. keep reading your journey...your dad's journey...and holding you guys close......

Anonymous said...

Just want you to know I'm thinking of you as well. CP

Fire Byrd said...

If I had long enough arms you'd feel them right now giving you a hug.
So instead look up at the sky and the next fluffy cloud you see is from blown across the sea with love from me to you.

paradox said...

Really, truly thinking of you...and holding those thoughts in my heart.

AkasaWolfSong said...

Ahh Mary...I so wish I was there to scoop you up in a big hug.

When I read your sharings I think of an Earth Angel, of which you surely are!

Please know that You and Your family are in my daily prayers and blessings...

Wishing for you a day filled with Rest, Rejuvenation and Peace,

Tracey Catarozoli a.k.a Sally Sunshine said...

I just love what you came to see and who you came to BE in this moment. I love that you gave your sisters the gift of grace and power and love and being able to feel a part of the whole. I love that you did that. Love.