Today’s post is a beautiful article written by Phil Bolsta. Thank you, Phil, for sharing this with me.
On a recent Thursday night, my dad slept in his own bed in his own home for the last time. He just didn’t know it. He probably never will. He was to spend Friday night—and surely the rest of his life—in a nearby nursing home.
His memory had been failing for at least a decade but it wasn’t until a warm September evening six years ago that I truly became alarmed. In my mind, it was the night he veered off the main highway of life and began weaving erratically down Alzheimer’s Avenue.
He had headed the stats crew for University of Minnesota football games for forty years, and as was his custom, he was going to sleep over at my metro-area townhouse after the game rather than drive an additional seventy miles to his home in St. Cloud. I didn’t expect him until after midnight; at a quarter to one, the phone rang. He was lost. He was calling from the Hopkins House Hotel a couple of miles away. I cheerfully told him it was no problem, that all he had to do was head east on Highway 7. He said he didn’t know which way east was, which startled me. I then heard five words that sent a chill up my spine. In a soft, sweet voice, he said, “I’ll never make it, hon.” I paused for a moment, then said, “I’ll be right there.” I drove over and he followed me home.
It was another couple of years before he stopped driving altogether. A year after that, my mom began bringing him to the St. Cloud Veterans Administration Medical Center for adult day care. it was a godsend for both of them. He loved the staff, loved to swim and exercise and, best of all, loved to while away the time working on arts and crafts projects. My parents’ house is filled with these little treasures. A pink ceramic piggy bank he painted stares happily down at me from a shelf as I write this.
He was very happy at the V.A. until just a couple of months ago. When he no longer could follow simple instructions and began needing one-on-one attention even to color a picture, the staff gently told my mom it was time. At home, when he was unable to shower in the morning without help, my mom knew she had run out of options. With a heavy heart, she drove him to the nursing home Friday morning.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a man named Roger Delano, who contracted a rare and incurable condition called transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spine that causes paralysis. Delano, who recounted his experience in Self-Realization magazine, said he was unfazed when a doctor told him he would never walk again. Indeed, thanks to his unshakable faith, he was able to walk out of the hospital under his own power nine days later. Here’s what he wrote:
I knew that everything that was happening to me was up to God, that He was the only healer. I felt safe, knowing I was surrounded by the overarching mantle of His perfect care. Whatever God brought to me, I wanted. Even if I retained all of the mobility of a flowerpot, it didn’t matter. I was still the same, the vehicle of expression had changed, that’s all. A flowerpot can still hold a beautiful flower.
Some would say that my dad’s slow descent into oblivion—into flowerpothood—is an unspeakable tragedy. I prefer to view it as the natural unfoldment of a divine plan, the details of which I am not privy to. As Richard Bach so eloquently stated ,”The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
As my dad slips ever more deeply into his cocoon, I know the glimmer of recognition in his eyes will soon begin to flicker and fade. But that’s okay. With a hug, a kiss on the cheek and a shoulder rub, I can still communicate with him through the language of the heart. Besides, I will know who he is—and that he will forever be who he always was.
And when the day comes that the changeless, eternal essence of who he is bursts forth, free to soar once again, I will hit my knees and thank God for giving me the gift of being my father’s son.