Years of pain and grief are drawing to a close as my father entered the hospital last night with acute renal failure. His kidneys have ceased to work. With a mixture of sadness and gratitude, I have begun to mourn.
I am grateful that I was with him June 3 to 10, grateful that back in May I heard God saying, Go to L.A., your dad needs you. Grateful that I heard His voice and obeyed. It was a shock to see how he had declined since early March when I was in L.A. because the doctors had decided my mom was too frail to stay alone in the little bungalow at City of Hope where they sequester patients being treated for thyroid cancer with radioactive iodine. We enjoyed our time together in the peaked roof cottage with the little garden out front and giggled like school girls at our inability to keep the rules–stay six feet away apart and wear gloves whenever touching anything the other might touch–to avoid my being contaminated by her radioactivity.
I saw little of my dad that visit, as I was only home a day or two. His shuffle made me suspect Parkinson’s disease. You could head him coming, schurch, schruch, schruch for minutes before he appeared, head forward tortoise-like.
When God said, Your dad needs you. I was surprised. Then I heard from my sister that he was walking around the house wearing only a diaper. Gulp!
I dreaded going. On the plane as I worshiped God to the latest Hillsong tunes on my iPod, and felt the familiar twisted stomach of my childhood. I dealt with my own memories until I heard Him say, You are going to give your dad something; something only you can give.
My time there was alternately sweet and overwhelming. Time and time again I cried out to God, This is too much for me. You are going to have to help me, and I would feel His presence as my body became lighter and the tears ran down. Lord, help me to see your presence, I would cry, and then I’d perceive Him sitting next to my dad. I would join them, sitting next to Dad, putting a hand on his shoulder. He would smile and pat my hand.
As a youngster, I drove him to rage with my ready tears and tender heart. There is a sweetness in connecting now that is stronger for our estranged past. I left home at 17 never to return for more than a brief holiday; now I am going back for the third time since March.
The grim visible reality stands juxtaposed to the promises of God. I am certain that my dad will come to know Him. Yet just last week, less than a week after I left on June 10, he fell and because he could not stand, was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with acute renal failure. He was placid the first few days in the hospital, but when the doctors were adamant about the need for minor surgery to bore a tunnel through his enlarged prostate, he said, simply, “No.”
And the doctor replied, “Then there is nothing more we can do, so we will discharge you.”
For a short time we feared he was coming home to be cared for by my mom, who has shrunk to less than five feet and 105 pounds, the woman who has watched him decline so precipitously. But then my mother shocked us all by saying, “You can’t come home, I can’t handle it anymore.”
We were hoping he would go into a local nursing home. He trumped us all by insisting on Broadview, a Christian Science nursing home on the far side of L.A.
“You realize that Mom won’t be able to see you?” my brother queried, and my dad nodded. “Are you willing to bankrupt the family?” my mother asked and he responded, “How else will I be healed?”
“You will die,” the doctor asserted.
“Expect a healing,” my dad countered.
My dad has told me before that he believes he can heal himself. Despite recent experience he believes he can heal himself if he can focus his thoughts away from his pain racked body. It sounds like disassociation to me.
So now we wait, looking into the face of Jesus who is always with us, not just with those who believe but with every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. Loving, caring, waiting.
How this will end, I do not know. I hope my dad will chose to move to a nursing home closer to my mom. I hope he will not slip into a coma and die in that place. I hope I will be able to see him again.
Sarah and I were scheduled to fly there yesterday until an email from her principal, Evan Glazer, reported swine flu outbreaks in the Thomas Jefferson community where Sarah is a student. Even though school has been out about a week, kids and teachers were exposed to the virus around the end of school and are now sickening. I paused. Sarah had had a fever over the weekend and was now quite congested. Could she have had swine flu? And was she still contagious if she had? A call to the doctor got only the nurse who said we needed to talk to the doctor and our plane was leaving in less than three hours. I called United who said, “Don’t get on the plane.”
When the doctor called she said they had see a flood of swine flu cases and that she could not see Sarah until the next morning. That brings us to this morning when we saw the doctor. Yes, she had had swine flew, but her case is resolved so the doctor gave us a note saying it was safe to travel. We rushed home giddy at our reprieve and tossed clothes, books and shampoo into suitcases that were still lying on the floor in my bedroom. A few minutes later we were at the airport hoping to catch the next flight. But at the airport they would not let us board a plane so we came back home and both fell promptly asleep in the middle of the day.
We have tickets for Sunday.
How to pray? Please pray that my father will sense the deep abiding love of Jesus for him.
Pray that he will want to live and be willing to have surgery to open his prostate.
Pray that he will be willing to move to a nursing home near my mom so she can see him.
Pray that I will not come down with swine flu so we can travel on the 28th.
We are grateful to God who orders all our steps!