Have you ever been in a situation where joy and grief are equally present? Did you feel confused? How can you be joyful when something awful is happening? How can you grieve when this precious event is occurring? This dichotomy of emotions is how my summer can be characterized.
I guess it started back in March, when I last blogged. As we anticipated the OB appointment to learn the gender of baby #2, my dad was hospitalized and almost died in the ICU. Instead of going to my doctor's office where the sonographer is well versed in going through each organ system with expecting parents, explaining what is being viewed and eventually revealing the gender of the baby, we hurried the ultrasound, asking for a doctor's order to visit the local imaging center a day before the scheduled appointment to quickly make sure organ systems were all present and working and learn of the baby's gender, to in turn quickly drive home to visit my dad on his (at that time) presumed death bed and tell him if he was having another grandson or granddaughter. Joy and grief.
After making a miraculous recovery and going through extensive rehab, my dad finally returned home. However, in May, he was again hospitalized where they discovered that he was again, unable to swallow correctly. Feeding tube surgery was risky due to the state of his abdomen and passing a tube down his nose into his stomach also proved to be impossible. As I traveled home with my little boy for me to fly to Philadelphia for my best friend's wedding, my mother explained to me that the possibility of hospice care was real for my dad. They were running out of ideas of how to keep my dad alive. As I got myself ready to fly to Philadelphia the next day, my mom came home from the hospital telling me that Dad had made the decision to go under the care of hospice when I returned from the wedding. I wept as I traveled to Philly, trying to hide my emotions and tears from my best friend, but failing. Joy in seeing my best friend, grief for what was about to unfold.
While in Philadelphia, I was able to focus on the task of wedding preparation and push everything at home aside in my mind, for the most part. But circumstances at home on the day of the wedding caused me to consider flying home and not be a part of my best friend's special day. After much counsel from my wonderful husband and dear friends, I chose to stay and see my beautiful friend get married to an amazing man of God. I was unable to be fully present that day, however, and I am so sad for that. My mind was constantly focused on what was going on at home, praying that everything could be handled without me long enough for me to catch my 5:30am flight the next morning. It is still difficult for me to see pictures from that beautiful day without thinking of what was occurring in my life at that time. Joy and grief.
When I returned home, I saw my dad take charge, one more time, in my mother's care as she was hospitalized shortly at that point. It was amazing to see him care for her, even in his weakened state, as she had done for him so much. Joy in that precious moment, just one more time; grief that it was his last time to care for her.
Once hospice care started, I was the one to drive my dad to his final dialysis appointment. We drove to his favorite places, having meals (as best as he could eat) where he wanted. Our conversations were about heaven and what he looked forward to. We talked about his new grandson and how he was making himself known with a lot of movement and discomfort to mommy. Joyful conversations in the midst of grieving the impending loss of my dad.
My mom was able to spend one last night with my dad in their bed. The next morning, early, he passed peacefully. She said that she held his hand all night, laying as close to him as she could, even if he didn't know she was there. What a beautiful experience. Joy and grief.
Almost two months later, little baby boy G was born. We gave him the middle name of David, after his angel in heaven. What a joy to welcome him into our family, but I am grieving that he will never know his Pops. That there won't be pictures of Pops holding him as there are of Little S. My heart aches over all of this.
As I learn how to live life as a mom of two (which is really hard right now), I am also learning how life goes on without my dad present. I pray for peace and comfort every day. I am thankful for the amazing example of faith, perseverance and love that he gave. I try to embody the same perseverance and fighting spirit that he had. I look forward to joy in the midst of the grief that I know I will always feel over the absence of my dad. Right now, I'll pray for comfort as the joy and grief continue to be separate.