Your phone rings and you look at the screen. It’s one of your brothers. The brother who only ever calls you from his wife’s phone because they talk to you as a couple. The brother who never calls you mid morning.
Your heart stops because you know, just know, something has happened to someone you love.
Last week my entire family lost someone to death for an hour or two: a period of time in which the worst was assimilated – a bad, very bad, prognosis – and a husband-father-grandfather was presumed to have died in an ambulance on the long journey to the closest cardiac unit of a not close enough hospital.
A miracle, and the skill of those who took care of him (of such a caliber he cannot stop thanking them), pulled my dad away from the excruciating pain, and clutches, of Death. He saw the sun set on a day he did not think he would outlive.
His heart will go on. And he is oh so grateful to have more time with his larger than life family. They poured into the critical care unit of the UK hospital in such numbers the staff got dizzy trying to keep track. It was the night staff who were strict and put a nursing foot down. It’s time to go home, is more-or-less what was said to everyone, bar the patient.
This crisis, this brush with death that is to be expected when one has elderly parents – yet the reality of it only faced head-on when they, and those they love and are loved by, know the feel and texture of Death’s dark cloak – has changed us.
It has certainly changed me.
I Know Now
I know now what it will feel like to lose my parents. I have lost others I loved, but my parents’ death will impact me differently.
I know now that when a family’s collective heart stops, then beats again, it opens your eyes and heart to how much you care. How much you’ll regret not sending the message you feel prompted to send but don’t, because you’re too busy scrambling to get all the chores done and back to the computer to finish your work. I’m glad that, of late, I’ve paid more attention to those promptings and followed through. Now, I’ll be even more aware.
I know now that my many siblings are no longer spring chickens. They could bump into Death while doing something ordinary like boiling the kettle, climbing a ladder, or watering their tomato plants. It’s not the first time this thought has lodged in my heart with a little flutter of panic. I find myself doing a mind scan of lifestyle, weight, personality traits, realizing we need to take heed and take care.
I know now I need to beware. I have a tenuous relationship with my own life, a wishy-washy interest in my physical well-being. Often, I appreciate the beauty of where I live, but not the beauty of being alive in a human body, on earth. It’s not depression, or even sadness.
It’s best described as homesickness. I’m here, but it does not feel like home. I know now part of the lesson learnt is embracing and honoring the life in my body, full stop. The Universe will oblige if I keep sending distress signals that indicate I need to be airlifted to safety. It’s as simple as that.
My dad is old, but he wanted to live longer, experience still more of life on earth. He stayed, despite the odds stacked against him. He has such a fresh, open, vulnerable appreciation for life right now. It’s sobering, wondrous, and beautiful to witness (albeit from afar – I live on a different continent).
I have a wondrous, beautiful appreciation for him too, more so than before.
Death must have witnessed this truth over and over again – it is only in its shadow that we come to appreciate what it means to live in the light.
I did my foliogem thing this evening, drawn to Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. The page I landed on reads as follows:
‘Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen.
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned with the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.’
From the heart,
xxx ❤ TeaShell aka Michele