The inner stirrings of new life and pain woke me in the night and in a fog, I thought I was pregnant. I remembered the feeling, clearly, from all those years ago as I made my way to the bathroom. I knew it was Eastertide—a time of wonder and hope—but even in my haziness discerned there was no way I could be pregnant. After some time, I made it back to bed and curled up in the shaky chills running through me.
I have come to understand how woven together birth and death are in the great tapestry of life. Losing a parent is as painful as childbirth; it’s just a different kind of pain. Through struggle and exhaustion new life comes.
The gray cast and chill of Good Friday has passed—that dark night of day, the noon to three o’clock hour that is so hard to think back on. When Saturday morning arrives, there’s a ray of light working its way through the blinds above my mother’s desk, hinting at the hope of resurrection to come.
The day before, Dad told me he wanted me to help with his business matters. He has also told me he knows he can’t go on living where he is. He has prepared for this next stage of his life as Mom had before him, and I need to keep up with him. What he and my mom both taught me about the security of God’s love in all situations feels out of reach to me as I think about the inevitable—losing Dad.
I lay awake in the room beside him listening for his noisy breath, a snore, his cough. In the quiet, I imagine my reaction if it doesn’t come. Is my faith strong enough this time to be strong?—I wonder. Will I be able to, along with Dad, discover new life within me as I move on to the next stage? Will I find peace in the understanding that Dad has arrived at last to the home his entire life has been leading him towards?—reunited with Mom and Ed and finally united with his Lord.
I get up to layer on a hoodie and socks, feeling the weight of my heart. We had an argument, the first in half a decade, maybe more—neither of us is good at conflict. Angry and stubborn, he quietly fumed. I cried. I tried to hold back my tears but then I couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe. I left for a walk, leaving him to put groceries away and finish making his breakfast. I called my husband and my sister who both reassured me that I was being strong and patient and loving, though they aren’t the words I would have chosen to describe what I was feeling.
Fear is something to be fought. It doesn’t just go away because you want it to. The battle ensues and it’s the fight that brings strength and then peace comes. I try to imagine what it would be like to surrender control. I imagine my mind not being as clear as I’m accustomed. I imagine having to leave my home of many years, to go somewhere new when I am older and tired. It’s hard enough when you’re younger and strong.
I want to do all I can to protect Dad from this but I realize I have no control over it. We move through the anger, fight through our unspoken fears together. He has prepared for this next stage of his life and now so must I.
As I lay in my bed recovering at home two days later, I realize I may have been right. The pain that woke me was a sort of stirring of new life inside me—a time to release what I’ve been holding onto so Dad and I can both be free to move on. I wonder if like the nine months of pregnancy, there are nine stages of releasing a parent into their new eternal life. I wonder which one I am on as I text Dad to tell him to get mashed potatoes and gravy when he goes to the store later today, to have with his leftover meatloaf tonight.