My father suffered two strokes and a heart attack last year, and ever since it has been an uphill struggle for the entire family. The man who used to be the strongest pillar of the house is now reduced to a weak bed-ridden man with barely a whisper of life in him. In earlier blogs I always referred to him as The Lion, for his implacable ability to roar in anger and in joy, but in the last 18 months this roar has reduced to a whimper.
We had a close brush with death this week, as Daddy lay in bed week and barely able to open his eyes. Mommy and I stood in the living room with tear in our eyes knowing that the time to let go has come. He has struggled, fought, and lost.
The stokes too his speech, motor functions and ability to eat away. The inability to talk and eat, Daddy’s two greatest joys in life, left him helpless and completely dependent on others for the simplest of bodily functions. In the beginning he still had traces of a sense of humor but as time passed, even that disappeared. Anger, remorse, resentment, sadness and frustration are what reign in his spirit these days, and it is heartbreaking to watch. He has so much to say, to instruct, to advice, but even his writing is illegible and we have to guess when we decipher his scribbles. The worst part is the fact that his mind is perfectly sharp, although his memory is beginning to fade, and has trouble recognising some people whom he hasn’t seen in a while.
On the afternoon that we thought the final passage would be just around the corner, I sat by his bedside and asked him if he wanted to pray the rosary. I struggled with the Lord’s Prayer and choked on the line “… Thy will be done” (Deine Wille geschehe in German, Hagase Tu voluntad in Spanish), knowing in my heart that it is all up to the Lord now, and in his Hands lies Daddy’s release from suffering.
My parents have never been overtly affectionate with each other. They were never the couple who held hands in public, something my mother always envied others. As they grew older, they learned to link arms with one another for stability, but not as a form of intimacy or affection. Both of them come from families where their parents were not affectionate with one another, especially Daddy’s side, so it comes as no surprise that they are seemingly distant with one another.
Tragedy and illness of course has a way of bringing people closer in the most peculiar manner. While we prayed the Rosary, Daddy reached out and caressed Mommy’s hands and tummy in the most tender manner, saying everything he had to say through those small movements. Mommy never let go.
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
The Battle of Life – Theodore Roosevelt