I’m crying while I write this.
I just visited my father.
Last year he moved to Ohio–his wife’s home town–because we can provide him far better full-time Alzheimer’s care there. There’s also less pollution, less traffic, and more emotional support for my stepmother. It was the right choice. It’s much harder for me to see him, but dad’s care and happiness are more important than my convenience.
I was really dreading this last trip. Our last attempt at FaceTime he didn’t recognize me. At this point I don’t think he can recognize an iPhone as a phone, or the video as a live interaction. He hasn’t recognized his wife for many months. I was prepared for, and fearing, this next level of loss.
The trip went far better than I expected. We did connect. On many levels. Some moments I was his daughter. Some moments I was just someone he knew he loved. Some moments I was just someone to play him iPhone videos from “Singing in the Rain.” Some moments I was just someone to sit and hold his hand, reassuring him that “of course we can go to New York… tomorrow,” knowing he’d forget the promise, and my visit, as soon as I left.
It hurts like hell, and it’s also one of the sweetest experiences of my life.
After spending a few days with Dad before heading to the airport to return home, I stopped for lunch and opened a tiny pocket copy of “The Prophet” I happened to be carrying in my purse, published in 1927, reprinted 1967, the year of my birth.
Here’s what I read:
“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant: and then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.”
~ Kahlil Gibran
My experience, definition, and understanding of Love have undergone a dramatic transformation over the last couple of years.
For most of my life love was about what I could get. I think that’s normal for youth.
My 50th birthday should have come with a warning sign saying, “Now we start killing and removing what you love.”
This sounds harsh and horrible… but it’s actually been a profoundly beautiful experience of appreciation, service, and surrender.
I don’t regret this experience. In fact I’m grateful for it.
Love is becoming less selfish for me. I’m learning to let go of more than I thought I could. And the spaces are filling with even more love, bounty, and beauty.
There’s a lightness that comes with letting go.
Letting go of who dad was.
Letting go of dad’s stuff.
Letting go of dad’s house.
Letting go of past conflicts.
Letting go of my own stuff.
And there are Surprise Benefits
The biggest shock as my father has declined, and issues of money and inheritance have come to the fore, is how much CLOSER my stepmother and I have become.
I never saw that coming.
We were adversaries for decades, and now we’re on the same team. Any doubt I had that my stepmother loves my dad has long been dispelled. He couldn’t have made a better choice in a life partner.
And even weirder… instead of fighting over dad’s estate we worry about making sure the other person will be okay, that she’ll get what she needs when she needs it.
I am so blessed.
This year LOVE is my Teacher.
I used to to take at least two personal development classes a month for almost 20 years. Now not so much. I’m learning so much more from Life and Love.
What I’m learning is love is soft and hard, sweet and bittersweet. Loss is part of the ride.
I’m fearing loss less. This surprises me. Because I’m not just thinking about my father passing. I’m thinking about changes to the planet and our ways of living under climate change. Changes to the country I thought I knew. Changes to the way I want to do business.
I’m noticing my energy around business and my definitions of “success” are shifting.
Holding my grandmother’s hand as she took her final breaths last year… holding my father’s hand in the moments he doesn’t remember who I am… mortality is becoming more real for me. I see my future. I’m learning to embrace change and loss, and to appreciate the present even more.
This is what Love looks like today.
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