Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One foot in, one foot out

Years four through 18 of my life were spent at Catholic schools, and when you attend Catholic schools, you learn about Heaven.  I've been exposed to more information about Heaven the past few weeks, though, than I ever learned sitting behind a desk in a plaid jumper.

Dad has one foot in and one foot out these days.  He's physically here with us, but his time is spent seeing people we can't see and talking with people who certainly are not talking to us.  He calls out to and reaches for his mother.  He talks to his brother.  He smiles at the ceiling as though he sees something behind it.  And tonight, for the first time ever, I heard my father sing.  It was a childhood rhyme, and he smiled and looked upward as he sang it.

Something is happening.  And as strange as this sounds, whatever is happening appears to be good -- because my dad seems to be seeing his next stop, and it's absolutely bringing him comfort.

When my grandmother passed away years ago, she spent her last few days talking aloud to her deceased parents.  I considered that somewhat of a fluke as a.) Grandma was very spiritual and dramatic and b.) I had never before been with someone who was dying.  But if my dad's behavior is any indication, she was on to something.   

In my experience, older Catholics don't talk much about their faith in personal terms.  My dad went to Mass every weekend, read his prayer book every night, and said the Rosary, but if I had asked him what his faith meant to him, he likely would have shushed or ignored me.

So the subject was never really one that I broached with him, especially because when it comes to Catholicism, I've always been the questioner of the family -- the one who can't reconcile many of the Church's teachings with the "love one another" form of Christianity to which I subscribe.  So while dad faithfully made out the tuition checks, we never once discussed what he believed, or what he wanted me to believe.

It's clear in that Hospice room, though, that while our acceptance levels might be a little different when it comes to the faith in which we were raised, we're playing for the same team. One night, Dad told me that his nurse-call button was "the button for God."  And every day or night for the last few weeks, he has verbalized at least a little something to the loved ones who seem to be beckoning him to the next stop on his journey.  

Watching a parent die is wrenching in all kinds of ways.  But I have to tell you: I think my dad is showing me that when it's his moment to go, his mother -- whose death left a hole in his heart when he was 16 -- is going to be the one who carries him away in her arms.

How ironic that after all these years without a word about the faith that obviously anchored him, he's showing me that there just might be something up there worth believing in.


  1. How beautiful to get to witness his smiling conversations with Heaven. Let that bring you peace.

    Hugs & prayers to you and your family.

  2. Beautiful, Lisa. Wishing you and your family peace and comfort.

  3. You have such a unique way of making everything you are going thru almost comforting to those of us who will at some point have to go thru it also. Although it is an extremely sad time for you, it feels like it must be somewhat reassuring that when it's time, he has family waiting for him, to take him home.