My beloved father has been feeling not well for over a year – not really his robust, take charge self.
Recently, he was diagnosed with cancer and it was late in the disease.
I thought that we would have this opportunity to have this warm, loving, connecting family in which people’s best parts would come together to support him.
At first, calm did prevail and each person was staying connected and collaborating to support my father. Then all the intensity began to come out. And it was painful and discordant and difficult.
It was difficult to maintain any connection to harmony.
It was as you would expect if you’ve studied grief – the five stages – Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Sadness, Acceptance, well at least four – sans acceptance.
What a mess. Little battles, big fights.
All the while I kept saying why is this happening.
This man loved life. He was a good person; he really made a difference in other people’s lives – his was a life that God would support. Sure he had made mistakes but it didn’t fit that he would be dying of cancer.
Then I remembered that amazing book by Harold Kushner, When Bad things happen to Good people, and I tried to incorporate what I knew and practiced, mindfulness.
All we have control over is how we respond to the bad things that happen to us. Cancer doesn’t come from God. But I believe that, in some instances, God gives us opportunities at the end of our life to clean up that which is undone. Having faith and feeling God’s presence has to do with what we take from our experiences and how we move through them.
My father’s gift through his illness was exactly like his gifts in life – profoundly generous, and selfless, endeavoring to help even when it seemed like he didn’t understand.
It was to give us the strength to weather the storm of his illness and become better, more healed from working through it.
Sometimes it was through his lead which was the typical way the family was held together, but surprisingly also through his need for us to step-up and BE the persons we were meant to be, – so through our lead, to use each of our special gifts, to make a difference for him and each other.
To make peace with him, ourselves, each other, and God.
He had always been the strength in the family – holding it together – now what was going to happen?
I kept trying to stay focused on my part – be loving and mindful and not reactive. This was a big job because the family system seemed to thrive on competition and rivalry, while still being one – lots of individual personalities, which made us successful in each of our worlds, but were problematic as a group.
As my brother said too many chiefs – many perspectives, all accurate but needing connecting points.
One brother was really trying to overcome his role in the family and I saw how much he had changed in certain ways – how having to be the one to help has given him a chance to make a difference. He wasn’t the little brother but an accomplished person. It was a gift.
Then another brother had to determine where his role was. That brother was the best at analysis but he had to develop his compassion and forgiveness which was paramount. It was a gift.
For my husband he was getting the opportunity to be the son who helps a father and credited with expertise. It was a gift.
My mom who was very religious should have been the one to guide spiritually but she couldn’t wrap her head around how to stay in the spirit world. I was able to use my training to help her understand about mindfulness, paradigm shifting, and figure/ground by using her terms and giving her a path. It was a gift for both of us.
My daughter strengthened her connection to my mom – what a gift.
My beloved step-son was able to be seen and accepted as the grown-up grandson full of ideas and intelligence and strength. It was a dream come true for my father to have a hint of what the new generation could and would bring and see how he had positively affected him. It was a gift to each of them.
Each of my brothers and I had breakthroughs to seeing each other in new ways that had not been previously perceived; each offering connecting, loving words to me – where I felt seen and cared for.
My mom came to me and said God is using this to teach her how to love.
That seemed to be the gift for each of us.
My father’s illness was his last gift to us. He was giving us the opportunity to grow up and become our best selves.
And he was receiving God’s gift of how he had positively affected all those he loved. Which was the thing that most mattered to him, that defined his life.
I saw these events as directly connected to God being present in our lives.
Yes, it was about how each of us chose to respond, but I think that spirit, mind, and body are connected – so for me it was emotionally and mindfully our gift to each other, and my father’s gift to us; but spiritually our connection to God was the guiding force – it was Grace.
For me, I was glad that although I was having to say goodbye to someone who was so important to me, this time I had a chance to do that – and show my gratefulness to him, unlike my last big loss. It was a gift.
I find, even in dark moments, I can feel God’s presence.
See you tomorrow.