God is Present in the Darkness
After an initial scan several weeks ago led the doctors to tell us Dad’s brain was not damaged during his cardiac emergency on August 17th, the neurologist yesterday confirmed that his brain had been damaged after all. Dad is able to communicate with us vocally but he is frequently disoriented, not sure where he is. He does not remember the house he built in the North Georgia Mountains, he does not remember his grandchildren, and he is only able to name 2 of his 3 sons. He sometimes becomes agitated and has to be restrained so he does not pull all the IV tubes out of his body.
All this has taken its toll on my Mother, who is wearing herself out with prolonged daily visits to Dad. She is not addressing her own medical needs, primarily her need for knee-replacement surgery. Bone is scraping against bone in one of her knees.
At my last visit a few days ago, Dad was lucid, but it was difficult to hear what he was trying to say because his voice was so faint. He pulled me to himself in an embrace and ran his hand along my beard. I made out the words “I appreciate you” but I was not able to hear what he was trying to tell me before and after those words.
I also made out, very clearly, the words “I’m ready to die.”
When he said those words I nodded my head and, when he saw that I had heard him, he sank back into his pillow, relaxing from the effort of trying to talk.
As I’ve written here before, it hurts like hell to see Dad in this condition. Dad was a very active, highly intelligent architect and aircraft design engineer who had started writing historical novels in his retirement. It hurts like hell to think of him experiencing moments of terror when he is unable to know where he is or why he is in restraints. I remember that terror from my own paralysis from Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 2002, those horrifying moments in the hospital when I would wake up in the middle of the night, unable to move, not knowing where I was. For me, those moments were very short-lived. They are not so short-lived for my Dad.
During my own hospitalization in 2002, I took comfort from one of the daily lectionary readings where I learned that God’s covenant and promises to Abraham were delivered to him in the midst of “a deep and terrifying darkness” that had descended upon him in the night (Genesis 15:12, NRSV). It was a great relief to know that, even in those moments of terror, God is somehow present in the darkness.
My prayer for my Dad is that those moments of terror will be few and far between, and that God will continue to heal not just his body but also his mind. My prayer is that God will continue to be present to my Dad, even in those moments when the darkness is deep and overwhelming. And if it is Dad’s time to die, to go home, to be reunited with his loved ones who have gone before, I pray that his journey will be painless and swift.