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I Choose Life

1978

Me and Bobby circa 1978-ish

Oh my, God! I just did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I took a baton that felt prematurely passed, and I’m going forward with it, because retreating isn’t an option. Stopping and raising my fist to the sky and screaming, “WHY?!” won’t alter time or the impending outcome, it won’t make this pain disappear or life suddenly make sense.

So I’ll embrace the pain, kind of walk through the side ache, so to speak…and I will press on.

This morning I soaked my Dad’s t-shirt for the last time with tears mixed with deep grief and appreciation that he has been my Dad on this earth. Memories don’t flood in while life is going along, but instead are conjured up here and there for the savoring. There isn’t time or margin for it all to flood at once. Life is active and meant to be forward moving, but there are these painful, raw, incredible life-altering moments where we must pause, where pause is expected, where when pause is taken, reflection can actually take place, and not just reflection, but transformation, if we let it.

Today I chose to get on a plane and head back home to be with my very most cherished friend, my husband Jason, and my two incredible children. This decision was my own. My husband and children were not begging me to come home, but standing by me, loving me in or out of state, supporting me, praying for me, loving me regardless.

Because nothing is done in a vacuum, this choice meant I left one location to travel to another. That place I chose to leave was my Dad’s bedside. I could have kept postponing my flight. I could have chosen to remain there with him in his final weeks or days. But that’s assuming I know the day and hour, or that he “needed” me. He is well covered with care from family and friends and caregivers. The truth is, “my” Dad isn’t actually mine at all. He is also the father of my two amazingly smart, fiercely independent, gloriously creative sisters and father-in-law to three handsome, diligent, faithful, God-honoring men, the grandfather of 8 exquisite humans all miraculously hand-made by God, a brother to one beautiful soul of a woman, an uncle to two fantastic individuals, a brother-in-law to a faithful woman who loves life, a great uncle to a brilliant young man, and a friend and mentor to generations of people spanning from New York to California to Arizona to Ohio to Hawaii to Fiji and everywhere in between. He was also the lover of his very best friend who traveled beyond this earth 2 years and 7 months ago…and I’m not sure how it all works, but his dying heart has been longing for this impending reunion for a long while now.

 

Bebe and Bobby soaking in scriptures together and pondering life in San Clemente

Bebe and Bobby soaking in scriptures together and pondering life in San Clemente

Teetering between here and there, I don’t think we “need” anyone as much as others think they “need” us. I needed to be able to say “goodbye” and “see you later” and “thank you for being my Dad” and “I’m grateful you have been my Dad” and several other things. There is no time prior to the cusp of eternity to cram in what never was, but if we believe life is a continuum then we can commit to bring life and newness into the next breath and into the steps we choose to take in each new day.

Proud of his girl's education, even and especially, early on

Proud of his girl’s education, even and especially, early on

3 of the most influential men in my life

3 of the most influential men in my life

This wasn’t the first time I chose something or someone over my Dad. Since learning how to ride a bike and heading off to college, I’ve been making small choices toward freedom for years. I fell in love, head over heels with my Sweetheart, and my Dad willingly with all the love and support he could muster, walked me down the aisle in 1993. I’ve never been a dad, but I imagine the day she chooses to hang out with her friends instead of him is something he begins to familiarize himself with in order to soften the pain of her beautiful, continued, expansive independence…the very independence he hoped she’d one day confidently embrace…the same he saw in his own Sweetheart. It’s just that the day it happens, man, that’s just got to be hard. We do hard things, though, and raising three independent daughters, I imagine, is up there on the list.

I’m a captive audience to the cabin of a United flight from Denver to Nashville, some sort of version A320, and as I sit here in what is thankfully a sparsely populated flight, the stack of tissues is piling high next to me. Of course the timing can’t be thwarted, so it’s also time for cabin service and the God-send gracious attendant reaches her hand over to my shoulder and asks if I am okay. What can I say? I think I’m going to make it, whatever that means, but the tears and feelings are pouring and all I want is water mixed with wine to ease the pain. I manage to say, “I’m sorry.” She says, “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do for you?” I say, “I’m sorry, we just do hard things in this life, right? I just had to leave my dying father in Denver for the last time because I’m only one person and I am longing for the love and support of my little family…my other sister is headed there now, but this is hard…” It’s like it’s an automatic response to sorrow, the offering of something mixed with wine, and she offers me a cup of water and an in-flight sized bottle of red. Whether she knows it or not, she has just given Jesus a cup of water, and I somehow benefited from this holy act.

I know I won’t likely see my Dad alive this side of eternity. And while this reality feels like full sinuses and puffy eyes and sporadic hunching over the empty seat next to me, there is actually time to pause. Right now, even though I hold the roles of wife, daughter, mom, sister, friend, aunt, etc, at this moment I am somewhat suspended in air and I have the expansive space of simply being the girl in seat E, row 27. I could not be more thankful. It’s in this common space I’m choosing to see the sacred. I’m sitting with the memories as they pour into my head and heart, the years and destinations and things he has taught me all mixed into one. My Dad can’t take anything with him into eternity except love and experiences and wisdom…all the things that reign on the inside and truly give life to a body. But I can take my Dad into the days before me. At least I can take the posture of letting his life, the good and bad, be a blackboard for me to continually learn from. My Mom’s wisdom and spiritual discernment has continued to teach me, why would it be any different with my Dad’s passing, unless I don’t allow my life to be teachable. They can’t take us with them, but they leave many parts of themselves behind and I can choose to let death embitter me in the longing, or I can choose to receive heaven inside me, allowing the sacred to mold my day to day.

I understand more is transpiring outside this airplane, but it’s in these moments of pause where we are able to savor what is most pertinent to our hearts at one specific time, savor the sacred apart from the noise. I know men and women and families are rallying around the country and world to celebrate the unique creation that is called woman. You know I’m not a fan of labels and branding, but baby, you better believe because of God’s truth over me and Christ’s life-altering work in me, I am a #jesusfeminist and would be peacefully rallying if I weren’t on this plane. When your parents choose three androgynous names to bestow upon their daughters, well, what else might one expect? More on this in another post…

Anyway, as I hang here in the air above a world that is at a pivotal point in history, I also am at a place where I must make choices. I choose love over hate, peace over war, hope over despair, freedom over fear, listening over shouting, collaboration over competition, ultimately, life over death. Today I stand with humans, ALL the ones God has created in His image and I will walk boldly in my birth-given role as a middle-child peacemaker to build bridges between us in all the days ahead. My name is Adrienne. It means, “Rich, bold, and confident.” The name Adrienne was given to me by my Mom and Dad, but the living out of the name is entirely up to me. Dad and Mom, thank you for your love…and thank you for giving me life. I love you forever. Boo xoxox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. maryellen hawthorn says:

    you are a brilliant writer. sitting here sobbing and relating to most every word, that is all i can muster. write on and continue to bless your readers!

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