Wednesday, June 20, 2018

After

Let the King of my heart
Be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from
Oh, He is my song
And let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh, He is my song

Yes You are good
You're good, oh-oh
You are good
You're good, oh-oh
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down.

This song was sung in churches all over the world last Sunday, including the one I attended. It builds from quiet petition in the verse to cry of proclamation in the chorus. As a lyricist myself, its easy to appreciate the artful marriage of words and music in this one. And yet, it has troubled me. 

My oldest children, a set of twin boys lived their toddler/preschool years in the age of VHS tapes. Like most moms I knew at the time,  I began building a library of Disney movies on VHS. Every day before nap time, they were allowed to pick out one to watch. I can still see the white plastic cases strewn across my living room as they came to a compromise on the day’s selection.

Because we were a twin boy house, more often than not we wound up watching either The Lion King or Tarzan. To this day, I can quote not only the words to every song, but the dialogue, complete with inflection, intonation and perfectly timed pauses in each of these movies. It is the soundtrack of their childhood and can instantly teleport me back to that treasured season of my life.

While Luke (my musical one) and Simba belted out that they just couldn’t wait to be king, Sean (the adventurer) liked to strip down to his skivvies and pretend he was swinging and sliding through the trees with Tarzan.

I lost my Earthly Father to Parkinson’s Disease on March 30th this year. It was a long battle, fought courageously over the last 20 years. I watched him face each loss of driving, golfing, fishing, walking, talking and eating with astonishing grace. And while the trajectory of decline had changed in the last 6 months, nothing as a daughter or a nurse could have prepared me for the final week of his life. 

He did not go quickly or easily and followed none of the usual patterns that tell nurses that the moment is close. He was too strong, too stubborn for that. As someone who sees the end of life with regularity, preparing and helping families through it, this was... well, insulting to me. After all, this was a primary reason I became a nurse, to help in this very moment. 

Grief, so far for me can best be described as endless falling. I keep waiting for a crash landing. To absorb the entire brunt of reality. An impact that stops all the whys and what ifs. A “this is the total sum of your pain: feel it, find the meaning in it, and move on” moment. It doesn’t come. 

Those twin boys I mentioned just finished their sophomore years in college. Their futures as well as that of their younger brother, Nolin were starting to take shape. Luke was to be married in May. Sean would graduate from the Air Force Academy in 2 short years and Nolin from high school. So much on the horizon for all of them. So much my dad would have loved to see. He adored them.  And he would not live to see any of it. We did not get the Disney ending.
And now we meander the path of “After.” Trying to strike a balance between keeping him here with shared memories and not triggering someone else’s despair. Wondering which phase (sometimes by the hour) of the Kubler-Ross model I’m in. 

And then there’s the theological elephant in the room. I am well-versed in the concepts of sovereignty, free will, the fallen world and could quote Job 1:21 as a memory verse before I could tie my shoes, so you can put your piety back in your pocket. That won’t be of any help to us here. I am just looking to find a safe place for my questions. Why now? Why this way? Did I miss something? As a nurse, should I have been a more aggressive health advocate? What is the lesson here? (Microphone tap) Is this thing on?? Because God seems so very quiet about now. And  as hard as it may be to hear, its even harder to sing, “You’re never gonna let me down.”

We had friends over this past weekend with a newborn. It has been too long since I’ve been in the presence of that purity. He was precious and perfect. The sweet little guy had  colic and was having an especially rough night. His tiny face grew red with discomfort, legs drawn up to his stomach, writhing and crying pitifully. All of us in attendance passed him around, hoping someone had the magical touch or soothing words of comfort to help. In the end, his father without speaking a word took him out into the warm night under an Alabama sky full of stars and held him close. 

And minutes later, he brought back a now quiet, still baby staring up at him with wide, trusting eyes and lips that formed a perfect “o.” I remember a scene in Tarzan where Jane discovers a troop of monkeys. Sensing the danger she is in, Tarzan swoops in and sweeps her off her feet. Independent-minded woman that she was, Jane begins yelling, “Put me down!” When the monkeys close in, and she recognizes her circumstance, she quickly yells, “Pick me up, pick me up, pick me uuuup!” 

Indeed. All the questions that cause me to writhe, the doubts that arise, the discomfort of not knowing what comes next may just have a remedy. A warm starlit night under an Alabama sky softly singing, “You’re never gonna let, you’re never gonna let me down” as my Father holds me close, without so much as speaking a word.

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