Thursday, July 22, 2010
Pulling at the heartstrings
Though most of my musings thus far have centered around my marriage and divorce in some capacity, that experience was not the only one to pull on my heart in the last few years. While that relationship was coming undone so was my father's health, and truly, his life, in just about every capacity. But coming undone doesn't mean falling apart, it doesn't have to mean destruction. Sometimes that is the case, and sometimes it is a catalyst for needed growth and change. Sometimes it is just a question of how you look at the situation. A year ago tomorrow my father passed away.
In the end it was cancer that took him, which was almost ironic given the string of maladies that had plagued him before "cancer" even became part of our daily dialog. A long-time sufferer of diabetes and hepatitis, my father was not the picture of perfect health by any means, but for the most part, he managed to live his life and work hard. When he was told that his liver disease, a byproduct of the hepatitis, had advanced markedly and would require a transplant, it sent him into a downward spiral mentally and emotionally that ultimately marked the beginning of the end. From start to finish, that final chapter took some two-and-a-half years, included countless hospitalizations, an attempt on his own life, two amputations and a rebirth of his soul. It was grueling, it was inspiring, it tore our family apart and it brought us back together. And just when that happened, just when my father finally seemed to find peace and become a much softer, gentler, more loving being, he was diagnosed with end-stage cancer and passed away not quite three months later.
No small coincidence, since there are no coincidences in life, or so some would say, that cancer has reentered my daily dialog again, just in time for the one year anniversary of my father's passing. This time it is early-stage, small and controllable, sitting in the chest of a treasured friend. Yesterday she had a lumpectomy and hopefully today she will go home to recuperate and resume her active life. Will her cancer be her wake-up call? Will it bring about change in the areas that need it most and prompt her to reevaluate certain decisions and situations in her life? Only time will tell. Personally, I have every faith that she will come out of this stronger, healthier and happier, that coming undone will spark beautiful forward movement in time, but we each have our own path to walk down so ultimately she will decide.
And that is what it comes down to for me: making a decision. I could choose to be sad and stay in a broken state over the loss of my father, the loss of my marriage or any other perceived loss in my life. Or I could choose to embrace the gifts that come from these situations. I reflect back on what transpired with my father and it brings a smile to my face and a feeling of warmth and fullness to my heart because I know that in the end, he really began to work out some of his negative karma and was in an amazing place. No matter that his health, finances and mobility were severely impaired. He had love in his heart, kindness on his lips and his family by his side. I held his hand, kissed him goodbye and prayed as he took his last breath in this particular life. I saw him at peace, truly. So I choose to hold on to that and it makes me happy.
My first grade teacher introduced me to the wise, beloved euphemism, "when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade". And that is what it's all about. Take what you are given and make the very best out of it. Learn all you can. Cultivate gratitude, patience, compassion or whatever other virtues are to be had. Find the vantage point that allows you to see the beauty, the good, the value of any given circumstance and hold that in your heart. It makes for a much happier way of being than the alternative.