2 years ago today, my Father died.
I don’t like looking back – I too much enjoy being present to this momentary NOW, and it took me a long time to get here!
But sometimes it’s necessary to acknowledge (to recognize and to accept) that part of the present is our connection with the past. Sometimes it’s necessary to look back and reflect upon where we came from. Today feels like one of those times…
My Old Man died of a rare neurological disease called Motor Neurone Disease (or ALS if you’re American, or sometimes it’s known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – that’s how rare it is: no one can agree what to call it!)
It’s a particularly bad disease to get (in case you’re planning on getting a disease) because it’s basically a slow burning death sentence. Bit by bit, the body stops working. And the medical establishments have no idea what causes it, and less idea what to do about it.
My Dad’s disease first showed up in his throat – one day his speech started slurring. He told me about a phone call he’d had from an old work colleague – who asked him if he’d been drinking. He wasn’t a big drinker – actually, he was one of the most sober people you could ever meet. So this old work colleague was surprised! But he hadn’t been drinking. It’s just that his vocal chords were wasting away.
In the end, his body packed in completely. I had a phone call one day from my Mother – if I wanted to see him again while he was still alive I should come home soon. So I got on a plane the next day, and spent the weekend with him. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen in my life – the man who when I was a child, seemed super-human; my hero, reduced to a skeletal ‘bag of bones’.
I’ve seen footage of the American G.I.’s who liberated the Nazi concentration camps, and they were crying like babies: those men who’d fought their way through the second world war, openly crying their eyes out at the sight of the camp prisoners. That’s how I felt. But this was a man I knew. My Father.
I spent the weekend with him. He couldn’t speak, so there wasn’t much communication. He couldn’t even hold eye contact, because his neck muscles couldn’t support the weight of his head. He was very weak. But when the time came for me to leave, he made a huge effort to sit up, and we hugged. I whispered in his ear,
“I love you Pops”.
He looked at me for a long moment, and gave me a ‘gesture’, like a nod, that I’ll never forget. That simple gesture expressed all at once encouragement, love, and respect. And in his eyes I saw that he was at peace.
We both knew, He and I, that we would never see each other again.
Seeing the peace in his eyes that day was one of the most beautiful moments of my life!
The saddest and most beautiful moments of my life, in one weekend. What a rollercoaster ride!
Why was that moment beautiful? Because for years he’d been fighting with life. He was quite a fighter too – he would fight on and on until the bitter end (which is exactly what he did then), and never admit defeat. There were only two choices for him – victory or defeat, success or failure.
In life, he couldn’t see another way – it was only in the manner of his death that he knew peace and acceptance.
I’d been trying for years to get him to see that sometimes we have to accept life on it’s own terms. Sometimes we have to bow down to a higher power: god; destiny; spirit; a deeper wisdom – call it what you will. Sometimes, LIFE has plans for us, and the only way to be happy and healthy is to YIELD to those plans. To ‘go with the flow’.
I’d been trying for years, and of course my trying mirrored his fighting! My Father’s son! So the more I tried, the more he fought, and the more frustrated I became. And we grew apart a little…
But in that moment, when he looked into my eyes and I saw that serenity, peace, acceptance… in that moment he taught me what I had been trying all along, in my vanity and ego, to teach him!
It’s not easy – to surrender control. To surrender. But it’s so important. I believe that the disease my Father had (Motor Neurone / ALS / Lou Gehrig’s disease) is caused by that refusal to surrender. I believe that it probably happens mostly to people who want to CONTROL life, and can’t stand to admit defeat.
(I would love to have the opportunity to work with someone who has MND – I’m a healer – to see if I’m right: to see if I can heal them. If you know anyone who has it, and has the courage to fight it in an alternative way, to try something new, point them in my direction please.)
Nothing is incurable if you know the cause.
So here’s my tribute to my Father: my first hero, and a wonderful man. He taught me in life the importance of honesty and integrity; and in his death he taught me the importance of surrender and acceptance. What a great teacher!
He died two years ago today, but he lives on in my heart.
If you enjoyed this post, you might particularly like this – the story of what happened after I hugged him goodbye, got in a taxi, and went to the airport. The story of the longest, hardest day of my life, and probably also the single biggest lesson I ever learnt.
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