Seven years ago, you were drinking coffee around 6 in the morning, an unGodly hour, but you’re an early bird because you love going to the beach so you can pull fish out of the ocean and throw them to the osprey that live in the nest built right behind the snack bar.
Only, this morning, you took a sip of your coffee and said “ouch” or cried out and tumbled to the ground.
I’ve heard the 911 call when Mom somehow had the presence of mind to call someone as opposed to flapping her hand and wondering what she was supposed to do. And, thank God she called because an angel of mercy was on the other side of the line, waiting for you to call: Julie.
Julie saved your life that day and, in doing so, saved a part of mine. Because I’ve listened to how she guided Mom on where to place her hands on your chest. And I listened to Julie tell Mom not to start mouth-to-mouth when she said that your face was “turning black.”
And Julie was so incredibly patient with Mom when, even before she started chest compressions, she prayed, commanding God to “bring him back!” No wonder you always obey Mom, Dad, when she tells you to do something. She commanded God and He gave her–gave us–you.
Oh, Dad. I love you. I love you. I love you so much. I always wanted to be your favorite, to be your special girl. Even now, as I close in on my 43rd birthday, I still crave the idea of being able to curl up in your arms and listen to you tell me a story or rock me through my pain. I know that this is a bit foolish, but I love you, Dad. I loved you before you decided to die and I love you even more, thanks be to God, that you were brought back.
Dad, I shattered when I listened to Mom as she sang/chanted “I will glorify the king of kings/I will glorify the lamb.” Because I could hear how each syllable was a chest compression. I could hear how each beat of Mom truly and honestly praising God even though her soulmate was dying on the floor in front of her. This was the most honest form of worship that I have ever heard, ever been witness to. And I can still barely hold in the emotion as I write this seven years later.
And then, your voice creeps over the sound bytes recorded by the county rescue squad. You babble, groan, sound as though your voice chords are severed from your brain and your tongue and sound emits from between your teeth.
You are alive, Dad. You should have been dead. All the statistics suggest that you should never have been resuscitated, especially given that Mom had never taken a CPR course, had no idea where to put her hands, had no idea how deeply she was supposed to compress your ribs so that they could massage your heart so that your body would continue to force itself to live even when your heart had decided that today was a good day to die.
Mom once more uttered a command, and, this time, it was to you. “Pray Lee,” she shouted. And you, oh helpless lamb, did. Through a thick tongue and a brain deprived of oxygen, you submitted yourself to the Lord and immediately said, “Heavenly Father…” or something like that because the words quickly deteriorate to guttural sounds.
But you were alive, Papa. Blood was flowing from your defunct heart and through the intricate webwork of veins and into organs and you lived.
Only to go to the hospital and crash once more and die once more and be resuscitated once more.
Only, roughly twelve hours later, die once more.
And be resuscitated once more…
Oh my beloved father, my beloved father, my beloved father, three times you died. Three times you came back.
Don’t you understand that in literature three is a holy number? Don’t you know that this is not an accident?
Three times, you died. Three times you were brought back to life. And in the season of Easter and spring. A time of resurrection and re-birth, of erupting from the entropy of winter and catapult into the very essence of living.
Oh, Dad, yearly I celebrate today as your second birthday. I already called you when I was at work, choosing to walk away from “important” meetings because singing to you over the phone was so much more important than any curricular planning that could possibly happen. So often, as my cell phone pressed against my hip, I was reminded that today you are alive because Julie taught Mom where to put her knobby hands and how to push down. You are beautifully alive because God sent the right people with all the right touches or listened to Mom (who can be quite terrifying, you know) and gave her back her husband.
And gave you back to me.
Dad, I was not a nice teenager. I’m sorry.
I wasn’t the best daughter in my twenties either.
And I’m sorry for that as well.
I know that I’ve made mistakes which have frustrated and disappointed you….a D+ in math, less than stellar SAT scores, a house that isn’t always spotless.
But, this last year, when you taught me to fish and I found the incredible delight and joy of flinging a baited hook into the ocean and then twitching the line back towards myself until that violent explosion when a fish pounces on the hook.
Finally, we stopped dancing around each other and all the stupid mistakes we have made over the years which kept us from talking.
And we just started talking. We talked on the way to and from the beach. We talked as we walked into the water and you taught me to follow the ridge of the line where the sand was strong enough to bear our weight. We talked as we cast out our lines and watched them dance and shiver in the water. We talked when we were back in the apartment and my legs were still drifting with the phantom ocean waves.
Oh, Dad, I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.
Your heart failures destroyed me, shattered me, broke me into tiny opalescent fragments. Your heart failures made me re-evaluate everything and see so many new shadows within myself and within my life.
Your heart failures truly taught me to treasure life, to hold tight onto every shard of joy, and to be grateful that God gave you back.
I know that someday you will go, your heart will stop and the pacemaker will make a vain attempt to shock your heart and will only send little sparks of electricity through your body. I know that your days are measured….
Regardless, for now, I am going to toss the fate’s scissors into the ocean, grab your hand, and walk with you out into the water and watch our lines twitch across the ocean floor as we compete over who can hook the most ladyfish.
I’m on my way, Dad. Wait up…