This holiday season has not held much joy for me. My father has been in the hospital since Thanksgiving. With his life hanging in the balance, it has been a dark road, filled with anxiety and the unknown. The lack of control over what was happening or what would happen taught me that life is fragile and sometimes we just have to trust.
Trust has been a big issue with me. Although I have always tried to trust, it seemed that I still hung onto a bit of the control. Always trying to make things happen, arrange and organize and plan. Be prepared.
In 2003, my father had a stroke in his eye. I had spent that day painting my living room. I had not showered, had not eaten, had no gas in my car and my cell phone was not charged. And I had no cash on hand. My mother called to ask me to take her and my father to Fort Wayne to the hospital. It was an emergency. Although I knew I was not prepared for the situation, I was not about to tell them I could not be there for them. I dropped everything, and with my nephew, who was visiting at the moment of the call, took them to Fort Wayne .
Without all of my earthly comforts, the situation became even more desperate. Luckily, my nephew had a credit card to buy some gas, $5 to buy me something to eat and a cell phone that was charged.
Since that day, it has been my goal to always be prepared for such an emergency. There is not a day that I rise and don’t question whether or not I can afford to go without or delay my shower. I try to keep my gas tank full, my cell phone charged and my charger with me, snacks in my purse and at least $10 in my pocket. I keep my make up bag in my purse and even a toothbrush. Yes, it has almost become obsessive to me.
But during the past few weeks, with all my creature comforts at hand, I have found there are things you can’t be prepared for, things you can’t control.
My father had to have two surgeries in the past two weeks. At 76 years old, and with the need for a new valve in his heart, his life has been hanging in the balance, and no amount of gas in my car, no matter how many bars my cell phone battery showed, I found it almost impossible to find a sense of peace and preparedness. I had to find trust. I had to trust that no matter the outcome, I would be okay. I would have to accept what I could not control.
Yesterday my father showed signs of improvement. Hope was like a hit of speed, and I found myself almost in a manic state. I have to admit, though, that part of me kept saying to tone it down; don’t get too excited, not yet. My mom, who has shown exemplary strength through all of this, had said we had to learn to live in the moment, be in the present. So I told myself that a celebration was okay. I could let myself feel happy.
My husband’s family will celebrate Christmas this weekend. I have been looking forward to seeing my oldest two children and celebrating some holiday cheer with them. Then the news warned that we are to get a snowstorm. Immediately, I felt panic setting in. Like a child whose sucker has been pulled from her mouth, I wanted to throw a fit, stomp my feet and cry. Now, not only had my whole Christmas season been overshadowed by worry and fear about my father’s health, it was possible that I was going to have to go to a family celebration without two integral components to my family. My son and daughter’s commute could be too dangerous to risk the two (plus) hour drive to my in-law’s house.
I have to admit I have not found a lot of peace with this just yet. I only know that I have to live in the moment. As of this moment, I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas with ALL of my children. I am watching the forecast and praying for little snow, clear roads and safe arrivals. It is all that I can do.
My husband said that if they can’t make it, it would be no different than the time that he lived in Germany and spent Christmas alone. And I remembered that I, too, had spent a couple of Christmases away – but far away ( New Mexico and Germany ). It would not be the end of the world. I just didn’t want them to be disappointed. It is one thing to not ever plan to be there, and another to plan to be there and then having to cancel the plans. But the ultimate truth to the matter is that I am not in control of the situation and will have to accept whatever does happen.
I guess this time has also been a realization of all the people that I have carried upon my shoulders, whether they wanted to be carried or not. I have felt responsible for their welfare and happiness, when it really was not my job at all. And these times of helplessness and lack of control have helped me to realize that I can’t make it all perfect. Life just isn’t like that. I have come to the realization that, as painful as it is to watch my loved ones suffer, we all have our journeys. And there are going to be times when all I can do is be there to walk beside them and even others where all I can do is pray.
Sometimes realizing that things are out of my control, that there is nothing I can do, frees me to just let go and let God do the rest. But most times, the lines are not that definite. So I do what I can, share what wisdom I have gained through the years, try to realize when it is time to let go, and always pray – pray for guidance, assistance and acceptance.