>Anniversary. It is a word that can invoke great joy or great sorrow, and sometimes, mixes a confusing cocktail of emotions. Anniversaries commemorate events. Some precious like marriage, birth, sobriety, and the remission of cancer. In my family, 2008 marks several joyous occasions. In April, my son turned one and a month later, my brother, who just three years ago lost his right leg and nearly his life in a motorcycle accident, celebrated 30 years of making this planet a better place. Another special family event will happen in November as my great-great-grandparents rejoice over 75 years of marriage.
Sadly, not all anniversaries are cause for merriment. The annual date marking a divorce, death, or other crushing loss, dump regret, despair, and longing on many bruised hearts. For me, tomorrow is a reminder of such a loss. It is the one-year anniversary of PapPap’s stroke. It was an event that stripped a vibrant man of many pleasures and dignities. An event that halted my near daily telephone conversations and e-mail correspondences with my beloved grandfather. My biggest fan. He is still alive and a blessing to this world, make no mistake about it. But, oh, do I miss the relationship we had. I miss our jokes, our banter about Philadelphia sport teams, and the pride in his voice when he responded to stories about me and my children.
My heart is concrete laden. Grief and guilt, which never left it, are stretching their legs and attempting to overhaul peace and hope. Toward the end of a telephone conversation PapPap and I had just about 12 hours before his stroke, I felt antsy. PapPap was rambling. I could tell he was having a lonely day and just wanted to talk. My one-month old baby was nursing, my three-year-old daughter was whining, my body ached with exhaustion, and my mind riddled with PPD induced intrusive thoughts. So, I cut our conversation short. I wasn’t rude or trite, but I did end the call before he was ready to say goodbye. I knew that. He didn’t let on, but I knew.
If only I had known it would be the last true two-way conversation we would have. I would have held that phone against my ear for hours. I would have asked his opinion on every issue I could name. I would have begged him to tell me stories from his youth, even the ones he told numerous times. I would have fervently clung to his every word, each intonation of his voice. If only, I would have…
The land of “If Only I Would Have” is a stark and fruitless land. It is no place to call home. I know I need to leave it without a single backward glance. You see, despite the agony, every part of me, from my stubby toes to my caramel hair and each atom of my soul is better suited in a hope-filled land where trust in the King quells the army of spiritual oppressors. While sadness and suffering do exist on this beautiful land, they have no power to enslave me. I can choose to kneel at their boots, but they cannot keep me against my will. I cannot escape encountering them, but I can turn my gaze upward grasp the arm of peace.
When focusing on the One in control, my heart’s throbbing steadies. I am reminded of the splendor amid the debris. I am reminded that while my conversations with PapPap have changed on this earth, the one I had with him 365 days ago will not be our last. One day, we stroll down golden streets, laughing, joking, and enjoying the company of one another. And that may not be a pain elixir, but it is, the crux of hope.
And from the Message Watch this: God’s eye is on those who respect him, the ones who are looking for his love. He’s ready to come to their rescue in bad times; in lean times he keeps body and soul together. – Psalm 33:18-19
Update on PapPap – Thank you so much for praying for a beloved man whom you’ve never met. PapPap returned to the nursing home facility yesterday. The cause of his hospitalization was not a second stroke, but severe dehydration. Despite my family’s active influence in my PapPap’s care, the nursing home in which he resides, like so many others throughout the country is suffering from a staff deficit, which means the patients, in turn, suffer. The hospital doctors have ordered special care for PapPap and a specific amount of fluid to be consumed by him each day. Please pray that the care he and others receive improve drastically. Another concern is that due to an infection, he has been moved to a solitary room in bottom level of the facility. It is the area where patients with dementia reside. My mother visited it yesterday and said that the halls were filled with howls. PapPap may be physically impaired, but his mental faculties are in decent condition. Perhaps not as strong as they were a little more than a year ago, but he is fully aware of his surroundings. This adds stress and grief to his current situation. Please pray for his spirit. Lastly, please pray for PapPap’s children. My mother, especially, has had a very trying year. Again. Thank you for caring about PapPap enough to pray for him.
In other “PapPap” news, I have written a children’s book about him and I. It is told by a mother recalling memories to her daughter. An artist from my hometown is working on the illustrations. Please pray that this book in some form will make it to PapPap’s hands.