Thursday, April 04, 2013

Before This & After This

There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts, before this and after this. ~ Unknown

 On our individual life timeline there are usually peaks and valleys, places that are marked by life altering events, where time is absolutely divided into the before this & after this. On Sautrday, March 23rd, another was added to my life timeline with the passing of my stepdad

 Over the course of 17 months my stepdad's body was fully tested and in the end, he was tired of fighting. When you have a parent who's body has been through as much as my stepdad's (a major stroke, subsequent surgeries, partial paralysis), its important to realize events like that ages them in a way that doesn't seem possible. Its an odd realization to parent  a parent and that something as simple as pneumonia or a urinary tract infection could be very dangerous

In the before this, my mom was (and remains) really amazing. Being a fulltime caregiver to my stepdad at home, while working a full time job of  her own was no small feat. She gave everything she could and more to him. There were numerous learning curves and challenges to overcome but she took care of him in a way that I really believe not many people could care for someone else. It was difficult, but rewarding, but also really, really hard. My stepfather's situation basically confined both of them to home, with her only being able to leave in 2/3/4 hour increments on the weekend. Seven days a week, there were aides who were able to provide much needed assistance while my mom and I worked. My stepdad was happy being cared for at home, but he wasn't living the sort of life he wanted to live.

The day my stepdad passed away was a sunny but cold, the first weekend of Spring. He was surrounded by many of the people who loved and cared about him the last 14 years of his life. He was able to hear his three children on the phone and most importantly, wasn't in any pain. Always steadfast, my mom held his hand the entire time. 

When you have a parent who is ill, sometimes, in the quiet hours, your mind will wonder to what the end may be or look like. I am incredibly relieved that when Death came it was swift and painless. My stepdad had suffered enough and deserved to part from this life peacefully. In my heart I truly believe that his body was tired of fighting, his spirit tired of holding on. 

In the after, I have learned there is peace. I know that my stepdad's spirit is free and he is no longer in pain. There will always be sadness, but right now, I'm holding on to peace. In the immediate after, there were numerous phone calls, text messages, cards and people There were arrangements and decisions to make, pictures to go through and people to greet. People bring food that you may or may not remember to eat. Time seemingly fast forwards and everything happens very quickly. Then relatives leave, the house is quiet, and you expect to hear him call you or his power wheelchair move across the floor. Only it doesn't. 

There is silence in the house that haunts you in unexpected ways. Suddenly, you have only yourself and the dogs to worry about in the morning before work. The flowers people graciously sent start to wilt and life goes on. My mom, brother and I are getting back to the business of life, finding a new normal, and hopefully finding ways to honor my stepdad along the way. 

The fog is lifting and with this new season in our lives, I know that as the longer days become warmer and the flowers bloom, we will find comfort and healing.  

 A huge thank you to everyone who called, emailed, texted, sent cards, etc. I appreciate each and every one of those thoughts more than you know.