My dad died. I knew it was coming. He had a blood disorder and was living on blood transfusions. They worked for about a year and then his 90 year old body began to fade.
The time between transfusions was shrinking and with it, his will to live. He couldn’t hear or think well anymore. His body, which carried him so powerfully for 90 years was giving up on him. His passion for life was tied to his ability to do, to garden, to ride his bike, to shovel, to mow.
When my dad decided to stop getting transfusions, I knew it was a matter of weeks before he would die so I headed home.
I spent two and a half weeks with my family nestled deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado while my dad was dying. I rarely spend more than a weekend with my family. I love them and we often have a good time together but my visits are short.
Two and half weeks with any family is bound to bring up issues.
We have different personalities, tolerances and messiness. Mine floated ever so effortlessly into clear view within a few days of being home. I am number 5 out of 6 kids plus I have two foster sisters who take the first and last spots. I sometimes feel unimportant in my family and my dad’s exit process was no different.
I just didn’t think I had a place. I wondered where I fit in. Why should I even be here? I decided after a few days to just go home.
Why subject myself to misery?
Each of my siblings, in my opinion, had a role: oldest, executor, nurse, caretaker, carry on the family business…but what about me? For a time, I kept thinking my dad didn’t even know who I was…he did. That was just a story I created to support my “I don’t matter” theme.
Then I thought he looked at me with disdain, like maybe he was seeing me as he did when I was involved in an affair. Shame poured all over me like waste from a port-a-potty extraction.
Our minds are so powerful!
We can convince ourselves of almost anything. Mine was doing a fine job of tearing my worth and value into shreds. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I quietly packed and prepared to leave. No one would have known anything was wrong. I am an excellent, Oscar worthy actress!
I called my husband that morning painting the picture for him. I made him promise not to tell anyone. Later that morning one of my sisters called me from work. She was upset and had been talking with my husband about her frustrations. He only said, “Call Karen.” I listened to her for awhile and then, through tears, I told her how fragile I had become and how intensely the toxic stench of shame had poisoned me.
She asked me to stay for lunch and I agreed.
My sister’s adult daughter joined us. We sat and talked of our frustrations. I poured out all the gunk inside of me and laid it at their feet. That’s when the hazmat cleanup started.
My sister and niece stayed in the icky places with me.
They let me have my experience and also added truth.
They helped me see my role…everyone has a role!
Mine was subtle but still important. My sister told me I was the first one in our family to hug and kiss my dad every time I visited. I had crossed a barrier that had long been in place since childhood.
She also pointed to the night before how I was the one who started singing my dad’s beloved hymns for him. She let me see that I love on my mom in a way that makes her feel special, something she longs for.
The last piece my sister added was that just for her, she needed me to stay and be her support.
The time with my sister and niece changed an entire course of my life!
I could have walked away. But, I would have missed out on the healing I received from them.
I would have missed out on being there for my dad, my mom and my sister in ways only I could fill.
Not because “I’m all that” but because I am me and the elements I bring into my relationships are uniquely mine. No one else brings what I do, just as I don’t bring what any one else does. I
t’s this beautiful place of importance that we all have in the entangled messy rootball of life. I learned the lie that I don’t matter doesn’t hold a candle to the truths that I am unique and I bring necessary ingredients into this world.