Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Sunshine

On behalf of every man, looking out for every girl,
you are the god and the weight of her world.
So fathers be good to your daughters,
daughters will love like you do.

My dad and I used to sing a lot of songs. I'm not really sure how it all started, but we would sing old songs on our way to school, before bed, and on our many trips to the grocery store. I sang those songs to him many times after he was sick, even when he couldn't hear or understand. I refused to sing them after his death. And now I'm finally at a place where I can sing them happily with joy and remembrance.

I was always a daddy's girl. He took the term "Superdad" to a whole new level. A military veteran, hockey player, and mechanical engineer; my dad was a man. After taking an early-retirement he stepped up to become a stay-at-home dad while my mom went to work. He did all the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and driving for our family. Ladies, they say you tend to choose a husband who's like your father...this man has much to live up to.

I have so many memories of being daddy's little princess; everything from throwing a fit when he didn't invite me to get my mom's surprise birthday cake, to cuddling in bed with him to watch National Geographics, to having him drive all the way to school to bring me a forgotten cheerleading scrunchie. I was his baby and he was my "pilot," "policeman," "superhero" and a variety of other random nicknames I gave him. I'll admit, I was completely and utterly spoiled by him. Everyday, my dad would personally come and wake me up; I would walk out into the kitchen where my cereal, milk, and orange juice were all set out and ready for me; and then would be driven to school each and every morning. I relied on him for everything.

So at 2am on my 14th birthday, when my dad fell to the ground and experienced a major seizure right in front of me, I just lost it. I remember calling 911 as my brother held my dad and my sister stood in shock, I remember meeting the paramedics and praying all the way to the hospital. Afterwards, we were told that my dad had severe blood hemorrhaging on the left hemisphere of his brain and had to undergo emergency brain surgery. At 14, I didn't understand the magnitude of major brain surgery. It wasn't until a visit to the ICU when I saw dad with tubes and wires everywhere and his body hooked up to a machine that I realized he might never fully come back.

For two years, my dad went in and out of almost 10 rehabilitation centers. My mom and I slept in the hospital each night as dad re-learned how to breathe, talk, and eat. I could go on and on about those two years. The pure joy of watching him take his first steps after every doctor said he'd never walk again. The misery of a legal case that landed him mistakenly into a mental hospital. The responsibility of tying his arm restraints, transporting him to his wheelchair, and dressing him. The need to hold it together while everything and everyone seemed to be falling apart.

After a year and a half of rehabilitation, dad was readmitted home. I thought for a second that he might actually have a full recovery when I got off the bus and saw him standing in the front window waiting, just like he did when I was younger. He was re-admitted to the hospital after only a few months when his health began declining again. When he caught pneumonia a couple of days later, the doctors told us that he only had a few weeks - I denied it. They had said he would never walk again and look how he defied those odds. We had come so far, there was just no way. On the morning of Mother's Day I went to work and then met my mom and sister for dinner. In the middle of dinner, my mom got a call. The rest was fuzzy from there. I remember driving to the center and thinking they were wrong. My dad was a fighter, my superman, they had to be wrong. But when we walked into the room, it was obvious - he was gone. One thing that might not surprise you about me... I'm not a silent mourner. I started yelling at the nurses, why weren't they doing anything?! Call 911 - Do something! Only to find out that my mom had signed the papers "DNR" - do not resuscitate. She hadn't even talked to me about it, how could she?! I just remember screaming and screaming, realizing there was absolutely nothing I could do. Finally my sister told me to calm down and say goodbye.

The 5 stages of mourning are pretty accurate, I'm pretty sure I went through them all at one point or another. I remember the community. I remember those who brought us meals, friends who brought flowers, pastors who told us to ask for anything we might need. I'll admit I resented it all. All I could think was "you don't understand, you just don't." I remember feeling like I didn't need or want anything from anyone.

Death is a funny thing. We all know it's there. We know it will happen to all of us. Dad was a believer, and even knowing about Heaven I just couldn't handle it all. It's like we know, but we don't. We've experienced it to an extent, but it has this strange power over us all that is unexplainable. We feel like no one else in the world understands, and yet almost everyone has experienced it in some way.

In the years following my dad's death I denounced a lot of my values and beliefs almost completely. Cheerleading had taught me well how to hide my true feelings and put on a show. So when I did have sorrowful moments I think a lot of people took that as a stuck-up attitude. Maybe it was partly true, not that I thought I was better but just that I did resent a lot of those people who did have their mom and dad, while I pretended to be okay with not. I'm just now learning how many of my actions were probably me seeking to fill a void with the broken cisterns of this world rather than the living water of Christ. I didn't find the real saving grace of Jesus until my first year of college. Even then I've had ups and downs, seasons of depression, and plenty of spiritual warfare. There are still so many things I struggle with, but you know, I think I've finally reached the last stage - Acceptance.

For anyone who had the opportunity to know my dad you might notice that I am so much like him. I thirst for knowledge like his strange love affair with National Discovery, I'm an early riser, I can be weird and goofy but serious and deep, I drink a glass of water before bed every night because my dad would always make me, I like to sing even though I'm not good at it, and cuddle with those who I hold closest to my heart. When my dad was in the hospital, I would sing to him all the time.
"You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You'll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my Sunshine away"

My sun now shines with the grace of my Heavenly Father and the remembrance of my Earthly one. The Lord promises to walk with us through the darkest valleys and carry us over the tallest mountains, and that my friends is a reason to sing... in every circumstance.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your road and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23

1 comment:

  1. Tears are pouring from my eyes. This is beautiful. I admire your strength so unbelievably much, Sarah.