I have so many words attached to so many feelings that I have been aching to put to print, but I haven't been able to start. The fear is that if I start to write about my dad and his prognosis, I will be swallowed up in the words, unable to come up for air.
But I need to write. It's what I always have to do.
Many moons ago, my mom and dad and two brothers "did life" together. We fought and made up, played baseball, took lots of family vacations, raised a couple dogs, made tunnels in roof-high snowdrifts, went ski-dooing on the hills at the same golf course where we would buy Dreamsicles for a nickel all summer. Doing life together was not perfect, but it was easy.
Now we must "do death" together. We face the unimaginable task of saying goodbye to our dad. The time frame God alone knows, and He is not speaking. Hospice rolls "6 months or less" off their tongues, but they admit it can be more or less. So we don't know the "when."
I put my arms around my dad last week and cried and said to him, "I don't know how to do this, Dad." He understood without another word spoken between us.
This is so, so hard.
Have we had enough time with him?
There is NEVER enough time. God tells us in Psalm 139 that every day of our lives has been ordained for us before one of them ever came to be. It is a done deal.
I would beg God for more time, but Dad would not want that. He is in pain. He is ready. It would only be selfishness that would inspire that prayer.
So right now, I attempt to process all of this, and care for both of them when I have the privilege of being "on duty."
The caregiving that we are doing right now.....helping Mom and Dad out 24/7 as we get all the kinks out and see what exactly Dad will need for assistance for the future.......that part is not hard. We kids (and grandkids) do that with love and honor.
No, the challenging part is the letting go that is to come.
I do not know how to do this. I take some comfort in the fact that my brothers don't know how to let go any better than I do. Nor do any of our spouses who dearly love Ed. Nor do any of the 7 grandchildren who have adored their PoppyEd since they were first placed in his arms. Least of all, our sweet mama.
We are all clueless, and there is no Google search on the planet that can give us a blueprint.
As my son said to me, "Mom, I can't conceive of my life without PoppyEd in it."
He is so right----for therein lies the pain----our worlds without him in them. He is our northern star, our fount of wisdom, the steady heartbeat of the Hieb clan.
How will it be possible to "do life" without him?
We will not know that until later. For now, we do WIN (my brother Mike's acronym for "what's important now."). We do what is vital, an hour, a day at a time. As the importance of something changes, we change it. We tag-team and we share a commitment that while we will need respite, we are best people to care for our dad. At whatever level that is on any given day or week or month. We know his likes and dislikes, his idiosyncracies, what upsets him, his sense of humor and his deepest desires. His personality shaped our very lives; who he is helped define who we are today. His essence lives in our souls.
We can do this thing because once, many moons ago, we did life together. And now we will do death together. Our dad will not leave this earth without us doing all we can to make the journey bearable for him, for Mom, for the whole family.
This is the hardest thing I have ever done.
And I could not do it alone.
But as a family, will we do this. When the time comes, we will do this very hard thing.
With arms linked,
with God's grace upon us,
with hearts full of gratitude for his 90 years,
with rivers of tears streaming over precious memories,
we will walk our dad home.