Composed Saturday June 13 in my Dad’s hospital room as I sat at his bedside.
Everything fell to pieces when my eyes met yours in that hospital gown….
Joy Invincible, Switchfoot
My cousin died last week. Today we will have a memorial for him. I woke up a week ago to a phone call to learn of the tragic accident. He was only 36. He was deaf. The world was challenging for him. His parents did everything they could to help overcome the obstacles that is impairment caused. Most importantly he was and is given unconditional love.
Today we will celebrate Brandon’s life as we navigate the rough waters of grief.
I am writing in a hospital right now. My dad is the patient. He had a stroke yesterday. He was supposed to be riding with one of his sisters to his nephew’s memorial.
Dad had a spell last Friday. He is insulin dependent diabetic and thought it was related to that. His sister who lives out of state is in town visiting him. She felt it may have been a ministroke. Dad was not sure but he refused to be driven to hospital or to allow EMS to be called. He recovered the next day so he really thought it was his blood sugar. We know now that was not the case. His spell happened the same day of Brandon’s accident.
After work yesterday my brother and I decided to head to the beach with our children. His youngest had never been to the beach. It has been a long emotional week and we anticipated that today would be even more so. So we loaded up and took an impromptu trip to the beach. We decided taking the kids to do something fun would provide a much needed moment of joy. We hoped it would help renew us as we braced for the next day.
On the way to the beach another call came in notifying me that my dad had collapsed at home and had left side weakness. He was taken to ER. The events unfolding would reveal what I as Family Nurse Practitioner knew to be true , Dad indeed had a stroke. We were almost at the beach. Dad had his sister with him. We were trying to decide to continue or turn around. We drove on as there was much undetermined that would take time. It was late afternoon almost evening and we were not far from our destination.
The remainder of the trip would include calls and texts to siblings and other family members. We learned Dad would be transferred to the closest stroke center hospital and we were waiting on that. We also learned once he arrived, due to COVID, visiting hours would already have passed and despite the situation we could not see him until the following morning at 6 am. We approached the sea wall and let the kids unload. I looked out upon the ocean and cried out to the Maker of this vast expanse of sea. “Lord, help Daddy!” “Lord, help us!”
We had calls and texts back and forth. I had to tell my husband who was home and did not join the trip because he had a work deadline. After discussing everything he said, ” I know it is hard, Shelly, but try to enjoy the beach.” I had been wanting to go to the beach for a while. My niece, Lindsay had never been and despite all the unfolding events her childlike joy and optimism could not be contained as she had her first experience with standing in the ocean waves holding her daddy’s hands. “EPIC!” she exclaimed. Yes indeed the ocean is epic because its maker is amazing.
My daughter found her epic moment by sitting on her towel and pulling out her guitar. As she listened to the ocean waves she strummed and sang. I realized she was okay. The nephews were with their dad. My niece was building her very first sand castle and her mom was nearby watching her and calling the nurse at the hospital. I walked into the ocean.
I let the waves crash into my body. All of the chaos, the fears, the pain, the grief, the worries, I stood there until the sound of the waves and feel of the wind and smell of the salt forced them to all to be muted. Anytime I visit the ocean the song Saltwater Heart by Switfchoot always plays in my mind. So in that moment of solitude standing in the ocean after my initial cry to God, my mind played……
When I’m on your shore again
I can feel the ocean
I can feel your open arms
That pure emotion
I’m finally free again
Like my own explosion
When I’m on your shore again
I can feel the ocean
– Saltwater Heart, Switchfoot
As I was standing there consumed by the waves and the song in my mental juke box my brother Louis came near. I shared with him I always think of that song anytime I am at the ocean. Louis smiled. He is the one that turned me on to Switchfoot’s music and I knew he “got it.” He moved deeper into the ocean with his eldest as I stood relatively alone again. I prayed and then I resigned myself to this summation, ‘Okay Abba, help my Daddy.’
We finished the day with some joyful moments of sand castles, wave jumping, listening to my daughter play guitar and just standing in the ocean and letting the waves wash over us. It was tranquil. It was joyful. It was a beautiful interlude that the Maker of this ocean and our souls knew we would need.
Now I look at my Daddy here in this hospital gown. Unable to use part of his body due to the stroke with much uncertain in the future. In a few moments I will drive to the funeral home where my brother, Louis who is a pastor and is officiating the service will try to offer words of comfort and peace as we memorialize my cousin, Brandon.
Hallelujah nevertheless, was the song the pain couldn’t destroy
Hallelujah nevertheless, You’re my joy invincible
Joy invincible, joy
Tears were in my eyes when the phone rings
If only life didn’t need us to be this brave
But we don’t live in the world of if only’s
Stretched tight in between our birth and our graves