Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Very Long Goodbye

My dad passed away last week. He had been ill for a very long time with failure of most of his major organs. He also had suffered from severe alcoholism that made him a different person, not always easy to get along with. I remember Nancy Reagan expressing her ordeal with her husband's Alzheimer's as "a very long goodbye," and I think this has been a similar experience. It is the constant hope that the person you know is in there will emerge and be different. It is the delicate balance of not giving up faith, but also not being to consumed in hope. I think what helped me do that was changing my faith not to things getting better or going away, but to understanding that they were for a purpose, to teach things, or provide opportunities for growth. In that process, I learned to let go of hurt, to detach in a healthy way, and be grateful for the lessons learned from the experience.

I don't know if we ever totally outgrow the need for our parents' approval. As I sat at my dad's bedside in the hospital the day before he died, I took some time to think of funny stories and talk about better times that we had shared. I told him how much I loved him and thanked him for all that he had done for me or taught me, told him the things that I was proud of him for. And although I knew he had not been responsive for days, not truly coherent for months, or totally lucid for years, there was a part of me that hoped he would say it back or give some indication that he wanted to say it back. In spite of my growth and understanding that our approval comes from within, from seeking truth - in that moment, I wanted his approval.

When I think more deeply about this, I think it stems from our belief that we are not quite worthy of God's approval. We seek it from our earthly parents and others, in part, because we are longing for that unconditional love from God, doubting that it could be there for us always. We cling more easily to the things we have done wrong or our seeming imperfections, but not very easily to the things we have done right. We see ourselves as less than we truly are, as flawed and undeserving of God's rewards.

When I think of God in the metaphor of "Heavenly Father" that has been painted for us, I think of my own sons and how I want them to see and know the good in themselves. When I feel like they are down on themselves or feeling like they are unworthy, it breaks my heart. I know how wonderful they are and want them to always feel that and know it. There have been times over the years when I could not get through to them with this idea, as even kids can be very down on themselves sometimes, and the world around them not so gentle. It was a horrible feeling for me, as a mother, to think that they were hurting or that they did not see their own gifts or perfection. I can only assume that God gets the same feeling when we think less of ourselves than He knows He made us to be. It must be tough to watch over all of your children knowing that they cannot see their own talents, their own abilities, or that they go around feeling like they are less than worthy of all that you want to give them. If we want to serve God or serve the world, we should not burden Him by accepting any idea that we are less, but should see ourselves as he our glory.

Throughout this week, dealing with my father's passing, I have looked to my own sons for love, and they have been there. My house lifted when they came through the door after traveling all day to get here. It makes me think of how God not only welcomes us home at any time, but probalby misses us being there with him. We can go home to heaven whenever we want by laying down our fears or our feelings of unworthiness, lifting ourselves up instead of tearing ourselves down; but we resist, thinking that we have not yet earned it. And God waits, ready to give approval, waiting for us to see ourselves as He does, perhaps broken hearted that we cannot.

I did not get my dad's approval at his bedside, or at least not directly, due to his state of unconsciousness; but I asked that he give me signs after passing, to let me know he was ok. I have received those signs that he is not only ok, but that he is thriving and alive again. My dad has heaven again...if he had only known it was there all along.


Marion said...

Thank you for this uplifting post, Sherri. I'm sorry about your Dad and know without a doubt he has found the joy that eluded him during his life. And no matter how deeply his coma was at the end, hearing is the last to go and I'm so glad you spoke with him as if he was awake.

This sounds like you have made peace; it is a very serene post.

Again, please accept my condolences.

Sherri said...


I have made peace, and more. I suppose there are bits of me that will always wish that things could have been different, but the bigger part of me knows that it had a purpose, a very big purpose. For one, I learned to have a healthy detachment. So many things have started to fall into place since I began to do that. I knew that I was correcting DNA patterns that have affected generations (Bruce Lipton/Wayne Dyer have talked about this). I have watched changes in myself and so many around me - as if just one person's change can affect the whole picture - a kingpin to growth for many. Of course, as spiritual minds, we know this, but it has been profound to watch it. We each still make our own choices, but there is a difference of energy. It says so much about reaching others - an action without many words, without allowing drama - but with conviction - can affect everything in a positive way.

Thanks for you kind words,


indianrao said...

Please accept my condolences and sorry about ur dad.