This morning I sit at my dad’s computer, in the middle of his office. I don’t quite know how to begin.

When the phone rang Thursday at 9:00 p.m., an uneasy feeling stole over me. When I saw the name on the caller ID, unease shifted to dread: the number belonged to my parents; something was wrong.

When I heard Mom’s voice, I knew something was wrong with Daddy. “Your Dad fell this morning, and now I can’t wake him up.”

I gave reassurance, as much as I could over the phone, and within ten minutes Van and I sped down the freeway to Mom and Dad’s home, thirty miles away. The ambulance was already gone, and instead of the hospital five minutes from Mom and Daddy’s house, we went to a hospital in Palm Springs, an hour away. Just a few minutes after we arrived, so did my sister, Robyn, and her husband, Terry. My brother, Keith, had to drive seven hours to get to us.

Twenty-four hours of decision-making, waiting, praying, hugging, hand-holding, tears, and uncertainty followed.  It seemed longer. And it didn’t seem long enough.

Through it all, Daddy lay in the hospital bed, unmoving. His raspy, hard-fought breathing the only sound we heard from him. For the first time in my entire life, Daddy offered no opinion, never interrupted, contributed nothing.

And contributed everything.

Daddy and Mom celebrated their 61st anniversary on June 28. They are who holds our family together. Their own three children and our spouses, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.  Plus four generations of extended family. Daddy and Mom are the anchor, the go-to people when anyone needs anything. All the lessons were taught by example. Daddy and Mom lived what they said.

As we sat, waiting, we knew exactly what to do. I don’t mean we didn’t have questions about Daddy’s care, but that was just the circumstance. The real doing was practicing, in the midst of uncertainty, the lessons learned from a lifetime of how Daddy and Mom behaved.

Stick together. Listen–even if it takes awhile to put aside your own needs, wants, and opinions–listen to everyone and figure out what to do together.

Be respectful. Of feelings, ideas, and the needs of others.

Help. Find out what is needed and give all you have to help them. Give advice, time, patience, and compassion.

Love. Do everything because you love. Give from your heart. Give all you have and then a little more. Don’t quit because you’re tired or irritated. Love.

These lessons are really gifts. Gifts from parents who never waver from what they believe.

Late last night, Daddy passed away. His passing leaves a huge void in our lives. But the lessons of how to live, his gift to us, we keep forever. They will continue for generations that won’t know him.

We stick together.

Thank you, Daddy. Thank you Mom. I love you.

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