Tomorrow morning I return to work after my maternity leave and summer vacation. I’m sad to be leaving my 7 week old, but hey this is the second baby and I’ve been down this road before. There will be bottles to make and breastfeeding schedules to figure out. I’ll miss both my girls, but that’s not what has me most anxious. Tomorrow, I will walk back into my office. The office that on June 6, 2013 my world went upside down. It was our last scheduled day to work of the school year…I was all ready for a summer vacation. I knew I was facing a move (or two) and a new baby ( I was 8 months pregnant). But didn’t quite realize that those were not the only changes I was going to experience on my “break”. It was 1:45pm and I had just walked into my office after returning from lunch with my colleagues. I looked down at my phone to see a text. A text that changed the course of my entire summer. You see, my father had been ill and in and out of the hospital for 6 months. I had told my friends that it was likely he was dying. I had told them trying to make it real, but I don’t think I ever really grasped that he was indeed dying. But when I saw this, I think my heart literally hit the floor in addition to me sobbing on my knees in the office.
The words that for so long I knew might come had finally come. If you knew my mother, you would know how painful it must have been to write that. She had been so strong that for her to say those words, I knew it was far worse that I could have ever imagined. If she was telling me to come home, he was close to death. I wept in my office with two co workers sharing tears with me. I called my husband and he immediately came to my office. We made the decision to go (because there was no other choice). We went by daycare and picked up our 3 year old after we had run home to our boxed up life (we were moving in two days). That car ride was the longest 4 hours I have ever driven. My mind swirled with what I wanted to say as my “goodbyes” yet I felt like I couldn’t find the words to say hardly anything at all. Occasionally my husband asked if I was okay and we took turns crying along the way. Halfway there, mom sent another text to ask if we were coming to the hospital. when we arrived. I told her I thought we would just come first thing in the morning since we had our daughter with us and it would be close to 9pm. A three year old doesn’t really belong in ICU, let alone it would be past her bedtime. She wrote back another painful message….”the dr. says you should come tonight”. And there it was-confirmation that I was driving to say goodbye praying I wouldn’t get there too late. I felt like my already shredded heart was just ripped out of my chest again. We finally arrived and were whisked away to ICU-it was after visiting hours. My SIL kept my daughter while we went back. I will never forget walking through the doors of ICU with everyone looking at us with relief that we had finally arrived-the whispers that we were here and I'm sure prayers I wouldn't deliver a baby tonight. I slipped my hand into my husbands, and as we turned the corner and could see him through the glass door we both simultaneously let out a horrific sound-a sound of utter shock and disbelief. There he was, mouth wide open, grayish skin, and only a shell of my father on a machine forcing him to breathe. The tears stung my face as I listened to my husbands sobs. We opened the door and went in and sat there. My 34 year old, 8 month pregnant self wanted to curl up like a 6 year old and hear my father say, “it’s okay” or make some off color joke-really say anything at all. The only sounds in the room were our sobs and the machines. What do you say in that moment? How do you say goodbye in a matter of minutes for a lifetime of memories? When faced with death, how do you find the peace to let go, instead of being selfish and begging God for more time. I had told friends I was at peace because I knew God was in control-in that moment that was a total load of BS. How could God take my father like this? And I found myself so angry. Why hadn’t I come more often or why hadn’t I talked to him more on the phone while he was in the hospital. I had stayed away partly because of life and work, but partly so I wouldn’t have the memory of him looking so sick. Yet the irony was, my memory now is and will always be that moment and him not being able to simply say “I love you” back. We finally gathered ourselves together and said goodbye-our forever goodbyes. He died less than 48 hours later after we brought him home with hospice care and we were left to find comfort and peace knowing he was no longer suffering or in pain-faithfully trusting God was in control.
So tomorrow I go back to work and I have to walk into my office where my summer vacation was forever changed. I never imagined that my father would not live to meet my new baby. He had told us over and over he was hanging on to meet his newest grandchild-and it was only 6 more weeks. Tomorrow is about finding a new normal and getting back into a routine-coming out of the fog I‘ve been in for 3 months. I’ve spent the last three months moving, having a baby, and thinking I was grieving. But as I sit preparing to go back, I feel like I haven’t grieved at all. Many days it seems that the world has gone on, but in my world the sadness and pain are as raw and real as ever. I pick up the phone to call mom and have to stop myself from saying "how's daddy?" I want to hear him tell me he's proud of me and how precious my 2 little girls are. It’s been easy to hide behind feeding a newborn or unpacking boxes and not really dealing with reality. We have been to church every Sunday since our daughter was 2 weeks old-I know people were amazed, but they didn't realize I was coming to somehow try and find peace or to be close to daddy. Tomorrow, reality is going to slap me in the face. Tomorrow he will be there-a part of so much of my day in the small stuff. So I’ve found myself thinking….tomorrow-ready or not, Life goes on.