Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
Friday 13th September:
Those of you who’ve read any of my recent posts on either of my blogs will know why I haven’t been posting for the Ten Things of Thankful Blog Hop lately. So for those of you who only read my TToT posts: my absence at this hop is not because I’ve stopped feeling thankful, but because my father died on the 20th of August and I simply didn’t have the time or opportunity to write for the hop.
But while I’ve been away I did write about thankfulness. The funeral service we held for my father was a service of thanksgiving for his life. To name it that was my mother’s choice, and it was also exactly what I would have chosen. Before she decided on this, I had already decided that I wanted to give thanks for his life at the service, that I wanted to share with the congregation the deep gratitude our family felt for him and for the people around us who were so supportive and kind during his illness and after his death.
Really, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say I made a decision to speak at the service , I just knew I had to do it, that it felt so utterly important to me, and that somehow I knew that I’d get through it. The last Ten Things of Thankful post I wrote was nine days before my father died, and was about how thankful I felt for him. A paragraph of what I wrote in that post formed the beginning of what I said at his funeral. I am thankful that my sisters, our mother and our daughters all suggested things to include in our thanksgiving eulogy. I think that helped me to do it. Truly, I’ll never know for sure, but I am thankful for whatever it was that gave me the strength to stand up and speak to 150 people. I am thankful for the neighbour who helped me practice and gave me tips on how to slow down when I spoke too fast. I am thankful that my husband agreed to be ready to take over if I couldn’t do it, and that he trusted that I could.
I am not thankful that my father has died. I miss him. While you might say I could be thankful that at least he isn’t suffering any more, that feels hollow to me, as if I am trying to “be positive.” In my experience it suppresses the emotions that need to be felt and released for us to heal. Positive is part of life, it’s not all there is. So when I feel a wave of deep sadness welling up inside me, I don’t try to stop it with happy thoughts. Instead, more often than not, I allow the feeling, and even welcome it. And when I do this, the feeling dissolves, and the happier memories return without any effort on my part. I’m very thankful that I learned to allow my feelings in this way. I use the Sedona Method , and I’m very thankful for it – and I’m also aware there are other ways to allow and release feelings in this way.
I am not thankful that my father had cancer. It was horrible to see my Dad in pain, to see his backbone broken and bent because of the disease. It was not a pleasant way for his life to end. Yet, I am thankful that the bouts of chemotherapy he had worked well enough for him to have several remissions.
I am thankful to have witnessed his calm acceptance in the days close to his death. It would be a lie to say he calmly accepted the cancer. He didn’t. What’s truer is that he went through a process of acceptance. Early in August, I sat with him during the admissions procedure to hospital. He had a chest infection; we knew infections were often an aspect of myeloma, the cancer he had. It was the first serious infection he’d had, but for some people they are the main symptom, including for a friend of mine who died of myeloma two years ago. As we waited between the various tests, my father and I spoke about many things. One of the things he spoke about was death. Even though he wanted to go on living, he had no fear of death. At his funeral the minister also spoke about this, about how my father had said that you can’t know what lies before you, what death brings, but you just have to trust. I am thankful that Dad had that trust. It makes his death so much easier to bear.
I’m thankful that last year I read Dying To Be Me, Anita Moorjani’s amazing account of her battle with cancer and near-death experience, after which she was cancer free. After reading that and other accounts of NDEs, I am more able to feel that trust my father spoke about.
I am thankful that my family accepted each other’s grief as we felt it. Sometimes there were three or four of us sitting at a meal with tears streaming down our faces, but just as often the things that triggered one of us did not trigger others. So when someone needed a hug we gave it, when someone needed to be alone we allowed that too. I am thankful for the memory of a sister’s arm around me as we watched Dad’s coffin being lowered into his grave. I am equally thankful for the memory of my mother’s arms reaching out to me because she needed comfort as we prepared a meal.
I am thankful for tears. They heal.
And I’m thankful that sometimes, even in the first few days after my father’s passing, as often as there were tears there was also laughter. That is how our father would want it to be, of that I’m sure.
Saturday 14th September:
I wrote most of this post yesterday. I’m glad I did. I am especially glad that I didn’t try to make myself feel thankful Dad isn’t suffering, but that I allowed the emotions I was feeling at the time. This is what heals us: trusting the process. This morning I woke up thinking about Dad, and I realised how thankful I feel that, right to the very last day of his life, he was able to get out of bed and get dressed. Just two days before, my sister took him out for a drive and to a café, and just one day before he was singing with the nurses. He didn’t fear death, but early in the illness he told me he feared being useless. And he feared pain, he feared not being able to cope with it. (I probably don’t need to tell you that he did cope – amazingly.)
And so, I am thankful that he was spared the slow death he didn’t want, that feeling of being useless. Though I also think he would never have been useless even if he had lain in bed for months. He inspired, and someone so inspiring is not, can never be, useless. One of my sisters was with our Dad to the end, and afterwards a nurse told her that she and her colleagues had got too fond of him – he was in hospital for all of 15 days. A man who was a patient in the same room for a day or so came back after his discharge to visit Dad. (They’d never met before.)
I am very grateful for the lesson this gives me. Our society measures worth in terms of money or what people can do. Because of this we devalue the very young and the very old. I’ve devalued myself too because I’ve earned very little money over the years our children have been growing up, and relied on my husband’s income to support us. But my father is proof that what we are worth can’t be measured in terms of money. He touched lives, and he learned from others. Even in the last days of his life he was giving and receiving the precious gift of love.
Finally, this video is of Amazing Grace, one of my father’s favourite songs and one we sang at the service of thanksgiving for his life. Although I don’t think he ever saw this particular version I feel sure he would have loved it, and like me I’m sure he would have admired this little girl who is singing after losing her mother to cancer. I am thankful to her for her bravery in singing this song.