Ordinarily a month is merely are marker of time, with one day flowing into another. The small highs and lows of daily life are not long remembered or worth remarking on. Every so often, life is different and each day is weighted with a poignancy and significance that marks it as timeless.
I have read many books where the characters have a dramatic daily struggle, and heard true stories from my parents' and grandparents' lives about such trials. These tales helped me to grow up with the knowledge that few lives are left untouched by tragedy, as well as the belief that faith and strength of character can overcome even the greatest challenges.
In my own life, I have just had such a month. I would venture to say that I am still having one, but the passage of time itself has rendered my extraordinary month over, and hurtled me into a new one.
To better explain the meaning of the weeks that I will write of, I must start by explaining that I entered that time period already knowing that my father was about to die. He was very ill, in the final stages of Alzheimer's Disease, and was sent home on Hospice, with the belief that he could not last long. This occurred during the week after Easter.
Now to begin the chronology of my month. My birthday was the starting point. It was at the tail end of April. My husband brought home a cake, and my children presented me with some homemade gifts. Not an auspicious occasion, but a happy one. In the back of my mind though, was the thought of my father, struggling through his final days, far away from me.
Our whole family worked madly for weeks to get ready for my daughter's First Communion during the first weekend of May. We put up drywall, painted, and picked out carpet.
My little girl's communion day went beautifully. She was dressed like an angel, and family traveled from great distances to celebrate with us. Not my parents. My mother was in tears about it.
The very next day, my husband and children drove with me on a four hour trip to see my parents. I held my dying father's hand, and tried to express a lifetime of love in just a few hours. They were all I had.
Then a few days later, my youngest child turned six. I prepared in my usual manner for my children's birthdays, and bought presents and made him a lavish cake. He grinned from ear to ear, and made it all worthwhile. His grandparents weren't there to see him.
Mother's Day came next in the month's slated celebrations. Life doesn't stop for death. The calendar cycle continues, come what may. My husband and kids treated me with extra kindness, and we had a pleasant day. I called my mother, and we both cried, knowing that my father was slipping further away.
For over a week more, I went through the motions of my daily life. I taught my children, I wrote my blog posts, I cooked, cleaned, and shopped for supplies. All the while I was getting frequent telephone updates from my mother about my father's condition. I was torn in two.
The day finally came when my mother thought it was the end. It was a weekday, and I could do nothing. I performed my usual duties, and waited with dread in my heart for the phone to ring. I was prepared, but when it rang, I suddenly wasn't. My mother put the phone up to my father's ear so that I could say some final words to him. Somehow the words came. I think he understood me through my tears. An hour and a half later he was gone.
After a flurry of shopping for mourning clothes for my children and packing, we headed back down to my mother's house for the second time in as many weeks. Somehow the wake came and went, and then it was time to say...goodbye.
On the morning of the funeral, I looked at the date and realized that exactly one month had passed since my birthday. A month full of living, while my father was preparing to die.
In retrospect, my father wouldn't have had it any other way. He was a man of quiet strength, and steadfast resolve. I learned from his example to overcome hardships and to always go on. I will, Dad...we all will. Your legacy of perseverance will continue.
linking to: Yeah Write Pour Your Heart Out