Daddy Dean’s Journey: A Week of Grace & Grief, Day 2

Apr 10th

{DAY 2} Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Scattered sleep delivered us to Room 47 just as sunrise stirred. We were comforted to see Dick Palm, a friend of mom and dad’s sitting by his bed, no doubt praying. And there lay dad, hooked up to the ventilator, the tube pushing his mouth open so his tongue hung out. He would’ve hated that. Yet, I was loving his salted stubble beard growth- grey and handsome. Perhaps dad’s new look?

It was a morning of asking questions and seeking answers. Doctors evaluating tests. Nurses double-checking his health history. You sure he didn’t have blood pressure problems? Usually that’s the cause for a stroke like this. Their puzzled glances proved mystery in why dad had suffered this stroke in the first place. An Angeogram was done to see if an aneurism had caused the bleed, and to rule out seizures. Everyone told us it would be a long road- weeks, if not months. He would never be the same, they said. Ever. Hope we clung to- never mind if he couldn’t speak or walk. We just wanted him awake. We wanted him out of this coma.

One question we did have a clear answer for was this: we wanted to invite people into our journey. No matter how tragic and sad and messy beautiful, bringing others along was a priority. Because it’s one thing to do it alone, just the five of us in a boxy hospital room staring at monitors and talking amongst ourselves. But it’s quite another when we open our hearts and communicate in real time to real friends and family. It’s a double gift- one we have felt over the days and weeks, and one we can hand back and say thank you for walking this journey alongside. The guys created a Caring Bridge site for dad and trafficked people towards the website. I’m thankful we did this for a thousand reasons, but mostly because it allowed us to be fully present with dad and visitors, instead of constantly being on our phones returning calls or texts. It especially freed mom up to simply “be” in an uncharted time frame.

How can we help? What can we do? were the generous offers people asked, and honestly we  answered. Normalcy, we begged. Normalcy. Meals made in a home kitchen as opposed to take-out and hospital food. In a pivotal yet small way, it was a hint of everyday ingredients prepared by everyday hands. Simple and normal.

As a gifted pianist, dad loved playing and listening to the melodic keys of piano. At a young age, I remember hearing Celine Dion belt it on the car radio, only to arrive home and watch dad sit at the bench and play the same song by ear. He had a gift. For piano, and so many other things. I asked if anyone would mind bringing a CD player and piano worship. Something to soothe and comfort and remind dad of heavenly sounds. As I share his day by day final journey, you’ll see how God uses music to comfort us on behalf of dad. Writing the first Caring Bridge post, the song that came to mind was “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” {Enjoy it here as you read}

For lunch, we escaped the hospital, and walked across the bridge to Panera. Bryan resembled the boy scout in UP, his backpack riding high on his back, plowing the way towards lunch. At a sunshine-soaked table salads and soup was devoured and mom mentioned it was the first time she’d ever felt like the fifth wheel. Typically when we all go out, it’s Couple. Couple with baby. Couple with kids mixed in. On this day it was Couple. Couple. Mom. Alone. A new “normal,” she wondered if this was what the future held. Perhaps we all wondered.

One of my fondest, funniest moments involving dad was years ago. To know my dad is to know he was a back-patter. Embracing and holding was out of the question- when dad hugged, you could be sure you’d get a couple pats on the back. My favorite when he whispered, “I’ one pat per word or pat.pat.pat. On this particular night, Drew was still living at home and in one of his hilarious moods. He grabbed my dad in an enormous bear hug and refused to let go. “Come on dad, hold me,” Drew laughed. Mom chimed in, “Dean, just hooooold him.” Watching dad – laugh tears running down his cheeks while my brother held him for minutes- dad finally caving and just embracing, it was priceless. To this day, we’ll be someplace together and yell, “Hold him,” then tilt our heads back in deep belly laughs.

Throughout the day, a steady stream of visitors walked back and forth the hallway to Room 47. Nurses commented. Staff whispered. Who is the guy in 47? Who? Oh, it just happens to be my dad, one of the greatest guys ever. Everyone was praying for a miracle and the staff witnessed our support first-hand.

A specific visit, perfectly carved out of afternoon space, was when Em and her incredible mom, Donna came. With mom and I, Donna shared her breast cancer survival story and the fact that she has never been the same since {in a great way of course.} Her excitement in jumping to her feet and squealing, “Let’s pray” led to one of the sweetest prayers I’ve ever been privy to. Donna launched into a heartfelt, intimate conversation with our Creator asking that none of us would be the same after this; that God would use this experience to alter our hearts to become more like His and ultimately bring Him glory. Tears closed the prayer, and we breathed in both the reality and responsibility of being forever changed.

One of life’s most beautiful lessons I learned that day. To show up for people in need. Whether it’s a tragedy, miscarriage, job loss, or death, I want to show up. To offer a hug, to hold a hand. To pray or sit in stillness. There is power in showing up. Oftentimes people have the purest intentions- not wanting to infringe or barge in. But I can wholeheartedly say that when they came, it meant the world. It meant they took time from their schedules, kids, work, and priorities to show tangible love. I realize everyone is different. In emergency’s some desire space, while others press in. But I doubt anyone would ever say, “I wish they hadn’t shown up.” So I’ll error in being there, in person if possible, to bring a spark of normalcy, to give a hug, or as dad would, a pat on the back. I want to be a friend that shows up, and holds people in their darkest time {picture mom shouting, “Just hold him!“} Even if it’s to remind them that God himself holds them in the palm of His hand. He sees their hurt, and loves them so.

Be someone that shows up. You’ll never regret it.

A text from Netti that evening… how encouraging it was then, and even more now:

John 16:33 “In this world you have suffering. But take courage! I HAVE CONQUERED THE WORLD.”

More later with Day 3 of Dad’s final journey…