My dad had emergency surgery 40 days ago. He is still really sick. Sometimes the doctors tell us he is dying, sometimes they tell us he will pull through. My sisters are really great at doing medical research on the internet and telling the hospital staff how they should be doing their jobs. Actually, sometimes my sisters come up with pretty impressive stuff, like music that stimulates the brain, aromatherapy, a megaphone to talk to him when he’s not very alert, and now they are researching hyperbaric oxygen chambers.
Me? I feel useless compared to them. My contribution so far has been a plastic cone to keep the water off Dad’s face when we wash his hair.
We are desperate to save him.
These 40 days (and counting) are brimming with memorable moments, some good, some not so good, but all worthy of being cherished in our grieving, hopeful hearts.
I’m going to tell you about one of them.
It was the morning of Dad’s emergency surgery. Doctors had said my dad would die without surgery, then warned that his weak heart probably wouldn’t make it through the operation. The odds were definitely against us as we gathered at the hospital, one wife, three daughters, sons-in-love, friends, and grandchildren galore.
At one point, I heard my mother say to one of the doctors: “I know he has dementia, but we still have a life together,” and she described for him their daily routines, the errands they run together, their ongoing fun and laughter.
Over the next few hours we watched the clock. Paced. Cried. And, of course, prayed. Each of us. Out loud. We thanked God for this hilarious, quirky, outgoing, God-loving, family-loving, people-loving man of integrity and strength we have been blessed to call husband, father, grandfather, and friend.
In her prayers, my mom also begged God to please give us more time with him… just a little more time!
One of the doctors emerged from the operating room sooner than we expected with bittersweet news: “He made it through the surgery, now we just have to wait and see if he pulls through.”
Everybody hugged through tears of hope and relief.
That afternoon, my 21-year old daughter, Kacie, and I were hanging out in the waiting room with family and friends as we all took turns sitting with Dad a spell.
As do all the grandkids, Kacie adores her “Momie” (that’s Armenian for grandmother) and “Poppy” (that’s Kentucky-country-boy-speak for grandpa).
Kacie looked thoughtful, and when she finally spoke it was like someone putting into words something she’d been pondering for awhile.
“You know, Mom, it seems like society tells us we have to do or be certain things to have worth. We have to be productive, or beautiful, or powerful, or whatever. If you’re old and failing, you don’t have value. If you’re in the womb and helpless, you don’t have value. If you are disabled and different, you don’t have value. These are the messages of the world.”
She took a deep breath. “Poppy is 84. He can’t always hear. He can’t always remember things. He used to run their businesses, but now Momie has to handle everything. By the world’s standards, he can’t domuch. By the world’s standards, what is the value of his life? And yet Momie’s prayer…”
Her eyes filled with tears.
“Momie begged God for ‘just a little more time…’ Why? Because Poppy’s life is precious. He doesn’t have to be productive. He doesn’t have to be or do anything. His life has worth, just as he is.
“And as she was praying it hit me hard. That’s how God sees us. Momie sees and loves Poppy the way God sees and loves us.”
I’ve thought about her words a lot.
You may not be 84. You may not be hard-of-hearing, or forgetful. You may not be teetering between life and death. But you and my dad have a lot in common. Actually, we all do.
Maybe you’re not as productive, powerful, rich, or beautiful as you think the world says you should be. You may not feel valued by society, your community, or even your own family.
But none of that changes how precious you really are, not even one little bit.
Right now my dad isn’t exactly the epitome of all that the world holds in high esteem. At this moment, he’s not funny or cool or busy or strong or articulate. He’s not charismatic. He’s not self-reliant. (Heck, he can’t even feed himself right now!)
Oh sure, as an entrepreneur, family-man, and leader in his community, he’s been and done all these things and more. But not right now.
But you know what he still is?
Desperately, unabashedly, and wildly loved.
Regardless of your circumstances, regardless of how the world sees you, regardless of how disregarded you may feel by a society obsessed with all the wrong things, you are precious and wildly loved, too.
The way my mom looks at my dad? Cherishes his presence? Yearns for his companionship?
It’s a sacred glimpse of how God looks at you, cherishes you, yearns for you.
As far as Dad goes, I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I might tease my sisters about the aromatherapy, brain music, megaphone, and hyperbaric chamber, but I can’t deny for a moment what those things are really all about.
They are love letters, delivered daily to a silent, helpless man, and the message is loud and clear:
You are cherished.