“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. . . There is sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.” C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Oh, there it is again. That damn grey oxygen tank. And the cannula through his nose. His feet firmly rest on the shiny silver wheelchair pedestals,while the rest of his body is telling another story. I look at his eyes, but what stares at me is his bald head.  I am determined not to meet his gaze.  I can’t breathe this stranger’s story today.

It means that I have to revisit my father’s home hospice days.

Father’s arms stretch above him, grabbing air, but finding nothing there. He lacked the capacity to do the most basic. Taking a breath. He yells at me, “Turn up the oxygen lever to the highest. Is it on four?  Turn it up. Oh, It doesn’t work. I can’t breathe. Fix it please.”

I can’t. Because there is nothing to fix. I don’t say that to him. I save those words. My mouth is unable to utter, “Dad, the oxygen machine is at its highest level.  You can’t breathe because your remaining lung is riddled with diseased cells, ones that are unable to sustain you.”

I stay silent. Instead, I plant distractions. “You got to take your pills, Dad. Is your neck comfortable? Can I read you the paper?” His eyes flutter and he says, “I just want to sleep.”

My mind has replayed that conversation over and over again. This week I’ve stood on the edge of melancholy, where I don’t know what to feel. I accept this emotion because today is my father’s 76th birthday. To honor him, my mom, daughter and husband went out for dinner to celebrate his birthday. I thought about all the things I didn’t say and would say to him if he was here. And I wondered, why do we save those last words? Why don’t we say them more often? Surrender to what we really want to say to our loved ones. Is it fear holding us back? Or the idea that we always have more time?

I have no real answers to these questions. But grief has taught me to surrender more. To let the words inside of me be free.

Happy Birthday Dad. I love and miss you.

 

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