There are times in everyone’s life where all we can do is look up. In looking up there is faith and hope. Sometimes, we have to put our heads down and work through whatever it is, go get through or to reach a goal. And then we find ourselves looking up at the sun, or feeling the cleansing rain on our face. Looking up means noticing all that is around, not only above. It is saying a prayer, giving thanks and taking a breath.
There is a conversation you never dreams of having with your loved one. The “It’s ok if you are tired, you can let go” talk when a family member is too ill. I had that conversation with my mother while she was under sedation and she could not really respond. The nurse had given her the shot before I had a chance to have a real conversation, so this was the best I could do. I know she could hear me, so I stroked her hair and gently told her that I know she had been in pain and was so very tired, so if she didn’t feel l like fighting, that it was Ok to let go. She had our permission.
I sat at her bedside, looking down watching her while rested and reassured her that while I wanted her to be around forever, it was OK if she was too tired and I understood. And loved her more than words could ever say. I told her about the prognosis – that her body was just too weak to fight the infection and recover. The truth that if she did recover, it would take months of rehabilitation to get back to normal. That Everyone would be OK, even though we would miss her more terribly and deeply that we could ever imagine.
I think it is one of the hardest conversations to have with a parent or any loved one. Gut-wrenching and physically difficult, it is what you do when you love someone and want what is best for them. But it goes against every selfish desire you have, because you naturally want your loved ones with you for as long as possible. But not at the cost of their comfort and quality of life. So you break your own heart and let go, letting them let go too.
After she passed, I said my final goodbye, taking her hand and telling her one more time that I loved her so very much. When I stood up to leave, the lights flickered softly three times. A gentle whisper of “I love you.” And I looked up and knew it was her.
As we move forward without her here, there has been much to do. Getting the old house ready for sale, cleaning, arranging, packing. We go out to take breaks and sit on the back deck facing the water. Feeling the breeze, watching the flowers dance. And I look up and see fireflies dancing and playing right in front of me. And I know it is another gentle whisper.
And there is unpacking the van in our current home, taking Dad’s things out and putting them inside for him, making sure he has all he needs to keep him warm and feeling loved and not so alone. Unloading 40 houseplants, finding a place for them, in the sun, or partial sun, or full shade so that they flourish as much as they can. And I look up…and see a double rainbow after I asked for a sign. Another gentle whisper, this time captured on my phone.
After dad and I were down dealing with the coin collection, there was a penny at my door, the year of my birth. And I looked up, thankful for the whisper. Truth be told, there have been too many signs, signals and whispers to mention. Every day, another whisper, just as I have asked moving forward. A wonderful reminder that she is around, looking over us. I hope she is proud of me, when I look up at the sky, at her in the beautiful cloud formations. I hope she likes the way I try to carry her legacy of love, warmth and laughter. I hope she is patient with me learning how do balance everything she did so effortlessly and does not frown too harshly when my patience and Grace and running short. I hope we she is pleased as she looks down and we look up.
The fact is that moving on is not possible, because it insinuates that you close the door on that part of your life. And that is simply not possible when missing a parent. You miss them always. But you can move forward, learning how to wade through and make new paths while still honoring and keeping the old ones. And even the old paths will not ever be the same; but different isn’t always bad and change doesn’t have to be negative. You can build a beautiful life on the grounds and foundation of your parents.
And you never have to stop looking up.