Welcome to the biggest gap between posts since this blog started almost two years ago. It’s not because I haven’t written; I have. Over this past month I’d force myself to write a post and reluctantly toss it on my editor’s desk (Bill), mumbling under my breath: “Good luck with this one.” And later he’d come back at me with, “Um, I like it, but it’s very confusing.”
I know, I know. Forcing yourself to write isn’t good. And it’s not fun. So I finally decided to just drop it and wait until the time was right.
Here’s where my heart and soul have been this past month: Bill’s father, Larry, has been in the intensive care unit in the hospital, following a myriad of health issues. I’m a big believer in being fully present with whatever you’re doing, wherever you are. So, my father-in-law’s situation became the number-one issue that occupied my brain.
There have been many times throughout the last month where I’d sit in his room in silence. Or in the hospital chapel, staring at the water fountain. Often times at home, Bill and I would sit together on the couch and say nothing at all.
I cancelled several meetings and coaching sessions – and said ‘no’ to many invitations – so I could be available. Available to visit Larry in the hospital. Available to sit and visit with my sweet mother-in-law, Marlene. Or available to have lunch with Bill to just “be” with him during the day. It reminds me of a year ago, being in this same spot in life.
I’m not a multi-tasker, and I only advocate doing its opposite. Even though I had plenty of time over the past month to write, I had zero interest or energy in writing. When I tried to force it, I hated everything I wrote and it never made sense. So even though I previously committed to writing a few blog posts each month, I realized it’s not always going to work out that way. Life happens.
As they say, I was taking my time to “stop and smell the roses.” And I wanted nothing else to take its place.
In fact, every time I left the hospital, I stopped to admire the big bouquet of roses in the lobby. The sign underneath noted that the flowers were in appreciation of the staff who provided “exquisite care to patients and their families every day.” Amen. I witnessed extreme human care taking place 24/7 in that building. Sometimes the gentleness of the care moved me to tears.
So, this past month I put a lot of stuff on hold. And there was simply no space in my soul for writing.
Until this past weekend.
That’s when I wrote a little talk I gave at my father-in-law’s funeral.
Larry took his last breaths with 16 members of his family completely surrounding him in a blanket of love. I’ve never experienced anything so poignant and powerful. Nor have I been in a setting like that where it felt like such a sincere privilege to be included.
When I married into Bill’s family, I hit the jackpot. I gained an additional set of loving parents, two fantastic sisters, nieces and nephews I adore, and aunts and uncles and cousins I think the world of. So in that moment at Larry’s bedside, the gratitude and love was overflowing…as I witnessed the patriarch of the family slowly transition into his place in heaven.
The past week has been incredibly intense. Emotional and difficult, yet peaceful and wonderful.
After Larry’s passing, the writing flowed and it felt like such a joy to put my thoughts down on paper. It was the perfect example of going with the flow and knowing when the timing is right…to write.
Here’s a brief excerpt of what I wrote and shared during the memorial service:
My favorite part about Larry and Marlene was the way they raised my sweet Bill to be the man that he is today. Together, they stood as models for living a full life, serving others, and doing whatever it is in life that needs to be done…while nurturing a charming couplehood all along the way.
By example, Larry showed Bill what it means to be a “real” man. To be soft, sensitive, caring, gracious, appreciative, gentle, loving, loyal, and to be able to do anything…from building a deck and fixing a car, to cooking a fantastic meal and ironing shirts. And for the model that Larry was to Bill – particularly in the way of being a devoted husband who cherished his wife and put her above all else – I am forever grateful.
I remember when Bill and I had our first apartment, and there was a time when we both came down with a terrible flu. We were sitting at the table, looking at each other, unable to move, not knowing what to do. Just then, there was a soft knock at the door. It was Larry, standing there with a smile and a pot full of homemade chicken noodle soup.
This is the stuff I’m talking about.
I’ll never forget backing out of the driveway the morning of the funeral. Just then, John Lennon’s “Imagine” started playing. I don’t think Bill and I said a word to each other for the remaining half-hour drive.
The funeral service for Larry was amazing…so much love from family and special friends. What a reminder to me of how blessed I am to be part of such a loving family.
Deep sadness and joy all at the same time.
What to do next?
That night after everything was over, Bill and I had tickets for a concert we had almost forgotten about in the frenzy of it all. Naturally, I figured we wouldn’t possibly go to a concert on the day of the funeral and dismissed the idea. But then I glanced at Bill and saw him smile and say, “Dad would love it if we went.” I knew exactly what he meant. Live music that we love fills our hearts and brings us tremendous joy.
Why not immerse ourselves in a celebration of life?
The more we talked about it, the more “right” it felt. It almost seemed as though we couldn’t not do it.
So, after carrying everything out of the church, we headed home and changed out of our dress clothes. Then we headed downtown. We stopped in a bar before the show and toasted to Bill’s dad through our tears. At the concert, we were right up in front – center stage – and stood up for much of the show and cheered extra loud.
The last “get fired up” encore song will be etched in my memory forever. That moment was a powerful reminder that life is to be celebrated. With all your being.
I don’t know that I ever danced like I did that night. It was one of those “dance like no one is watching” moments; it was the essence of being alive. I was filled with tremendous joy.
The sacredness and preciousness of life filled me to the top, as 2,000 other concertgoers were up on their feet behind us, dancing and celebrating life with us. Total goosebumps.
My joy partner was right next to me, smiling and dancing his butt off, too. Tears filled my eyes. I was grateful to be alive.
We were definitely “smelling the roses,” so to speak.
And I know that Bill’s dad was smiling with us.