Strength, Stubbornness, or Just Plain Love?
I sat at Massachusetts General Hospital ICU one morning in Dad’s room. He had just had brain surgery–two of them in four days. Despite this, he worked hard with each person who came in the room to get them to smile.
My Dad had asked to receive communion so we were chatting and waiting for one of the many interruptions that happens in a hospital intensive care room.
Eventually, the chaplain of the hospital walked in. But he had a yarmulke on. I saw my Dad look curiously up at him. He was expecting communion. Here was a Jewish chaplain. I could read the question on my Father’s mind. He looks nice, but what is he doing here?
He opened his mouth. “Hello—I’m here as the chaplain, and my words are my blessing.”
His words washed over me. How wonderful. His words were his blessing. I had high hopes for this man.
“Oh,” my Dad said laughing along with a heavy sigh of relief. “I never had communion from a someone in a ….”
More laughter from both of them.
Then the chaplain got serious. This was the ICU after all.
“What do you live for? What is it you most want to do with your life?” (This guy did not waste words or time.)
My Dad is 87. And the chaplain wanted to know my Dad’s plans, purpose, raison d’etre.
“I want to be there for my grandchildren. I know they need me. And I want to be there to do what God needs me to do.”
Here he is, two brain surgeries later, blood and liquid still draining out of his head into the two plastic sacs on his chest, and he has plans to serve.
My heart warmed. Liquid gathered in my eyes.
This is a man who won’t give up his life for one moment, for one bad thought for one struggle. Not as long as there is someone he can help or be there for.
Then he added something, that I thought might be for my ears.
“Your children expect you to be perfect; your grandchildren expect you to be supportive.”
“I can relate,” the chaplain laughing, “I have a 16 year old.”
I wondered about his comment. He wasn’t perfect. And why should he be? Was he saying sorry for letting me down in his moments of fear? He’d had his struggles, and I was there during his struggles, and now we were all trying to live and learn beyond them. The past was no longer there for me, and I was sad that he brought it up.
We got through the days in the ICU. And we drove home. My Dad and I spent a very special eight days together back at his home once he got out from the hospital. He hobbled about and I served him every thing from cup of tea, to water with lemon, to the constant reminders to “not do too much” and especially, to “nap!”
I made him homemade chicken soup where I boiled the bones for two and a half days and added the meat back in with rice and veggies. That soup could have healed Superman from the affects of kryptonite.
He walked me down the hallway the day I left at 6am. We talked while I waited for the taxi to the airport. 6’ 1”, he knelt down by the 2nd floor railing because he got tired and called down to me. “Thanks for everything, Therese.”
Hard to talk at that time, looking up at his vulnerable weak self. But here’s what I thought. Thanks for my name, for the love, for college tuition, for taking me all over the world. Thanks for the imperfections, the arguments, and the peace treaties which came after the battles—some of which lasted years.
I thought as I waited for the taxi trying to make small talk and because I couldn’t express these deep thoughts in front of the doorman. We made it through everything dad. You aren’t perfect. But you chose to love me and to stick through the tough times and most of all to grow spiritually. Thank you for that strength and for hanging in there for love that helped me take the path of love and transformation myself.
Maybe you are perfect after all.