The Inevitability Of Change
It’s just after 9 pm on a balmy Arizona evening. It’s almost “monsoon season” and tonight is living proof, as the heat of the day still lingers–the wind begins to kick up and a light rain begins to fall. Lightening lights up the sky and reflects off the pool water as the rustling of the palms are quieted every so often by the crackle of thunder.
I’m sharing these precious moments with my best friend Gail, sitting together in the backyard of the home her parents built over 40 years ago. All of her childhood memories are tucked away in this home with the same décor from the late 60’s that seem to keep the past in pristine condition. We sit across from each other as candles flicker on the table as lightening flashes illuminate the landscape periodically. I ask her if she’s OK.
Gail’s father is dying… slowly. Not from disease, but at 88 years of age, perhaps from a perspective that it’s time to finally let go. Maybe just to free himself from the confines of the wheelchair he’s been bound for the past five years. Or, better yet, to release himself from the pain he’s felt for losing the love of his life two and a half years ago, two weeks shy of their 54th wedding anniversary.
At present, he’s resting somewhat comfortably. He’s been in a semi-coma for the past day, eyes closed, acknowledging her not with words, but occasionally with his mouth as he closes it around a moistened swab lightly saturated with water. She is remarkably calm considering the circumstances. We speak of life, death, and the struggle to understand the natural progression of both. I’m reminded of my own father’s sudden passing nine months ago and secretly say to myself how thankful and blessed I have felt with the lack of his suffering or some prolonged unbeatable battle with disease. Gail senses my thought and reminds me that it’s the “unknown” that produces the fear we feel at times like these. I simply nod my head and recognize her beauty and profound wisdom of seeing the beauty that comes from the unforeseen aspects that arise from change.
In a moment of shared silence, I find myself thinking about my father and the profound loss I felt just after his passing. I vividly recall a ‘turning point’ in my sorrow just a few months after his death during my master’s studies in spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica. It was during that weekend that I experienced a profound shift of awareness or ‘change’ from a Gestalt process that we practiced in class. Gestalt, or “complete” in German, provides an individual with a unique set of tools to actually ‘complete’ an ‘incompletion,’ by expressing one’s unresolved feelings. It was during this process that I was able to actually envision experiencing a conversation with him by expressing my feelings of love and gratitude to him sitting across from me in an empty chair. In turn, I was able to move into the empty chair across from me and speak from his perspective back to me. The experience provided me with a profound release of pain and welled up emotion, having not been able to be there at my fathers passing or to comfort him in any possible way. In turn, my father speaking through me, expressed his love, compassion, and deep seeded pride in my being his son, and for all that I had done and continue to do, evolving into the man I have become. The sobbing and relentless tears streaming from my cheeks that weekend is a profound reminder of the love I always desired and cherished from my father.
Gail has been fortunate to have had the past few years to share heartfelt stories and relive countless memories with her father. Although the struggle to understand his upcoming passing is fraught with second guessing and wishing for more time, I also know that it’s the same heartfelt stories and memories that will provide her with a source of tremendous strength during the times of numbness, uncertainty, and loss that are to follow.
20th Century author, educator, and columnist, Max Lerner, once remarked so appropriately; “The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core strength within you that survives all hurt.”
I glance over at Gail and see the tired look of hopelessness on her face and my heart goes out to her. She knows how much her father loves her, and he’s been showered by her love and affection since she was a little girl. It’s just that longing she feels for a miracle to have just a few more precious words to share with each other. I walk in to say goodnight to her father and although his breathing is labored, he seems to be resting comfortably. I tell him to rest easy and that everything is going to be alright, especially with Gail. With that, I turn and walk out. Gail meets me at the door, and I kiss her goodbye. She thanks me for being there for her. I wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, she was the first one at my door the morning my father passed away.
Change is inevitable. However, it’s the love in our hearts and the people in our lives that make any change truly memorable.
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