Sunday, January 18, 2015

What My Parents Taught Me from Their Hospital Beds - Part VII

As I approach the last entry in this series, I'm amazed at what God has done.

The first time I sat down to begin this series, I thought, how in the world am I going to come up with at least five meaningful, practical things to share about the time I spent with my parents in the hospital?

I wasn't short on memories, funny moments, frightening moments and random musings. But what had I learned that I could pass on to others? What could I share that could speak to the issues and circumstances that you are dealing with?

Those questions weren't answered until I began writing.

It was like God opened my eyes and heart to the things my parents wanted to tell me, but couldn't. If my mother hadn't had that respirator placed in her mouth. If my father hadn't struggled with the post-operative delirium that confounded his mind.

They would have shared so much.

But it was up to me to pay attention. Take notice. Watch their every move. Listen to what they said through the silence and through the jumbled speech.

I just finished Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, which I began reading while in Maryland with my parents. This book speaks to the writing process. How to write with authenticity, honesty, clarity and emotion. How to use one's pain and transfer it into words on the page.

The book also speaks to the living process. How to live with authenticity, honesty, clarity and emotion. How to use all this pain and transfer it into wholehearted living.

Here's a sampling from Bird by Bird that spoke to me. Anne's sharing what she learned during the last months of her best friend Pammy's life.
"I remind myself nearly every day of something that a doctor told me six months before my friend Pammy died... She said something that changed my life. 'Watch her carefully right now,' she said, 'because she's teaching you how to live.' I remind myself of this when I cannot get any work done: to live as if I'm dying, because the truth is we're all terminal on this bus."
When we have the burden and privilege to sit beside a loved one's hospital bed, we need to watch carefully. Sick folks understand the brevity of life. They get how fleeting life really is. They understand what's most important in life.

And most importantly, when we watch those that are terribly ill, we are reminded that we too are "terminal on this bus." We're reminded that our lives will be brief too. We're reminded that we too are but dust. And to dust we shall return.

Today I'm grateful for so much. My parents are both improving. My Mom and I talked a long time last night, and she sounds much better. The doctors have said she is much better. My Dad is even returning to a normal mental state. He's telling the nurses his birthdate, his whole name, where he is. He just told my aunt today that he wants my Mom moved to his room. Carl Adair is coming back y'all...

I'm also grateful for this journey. This journey that has taught me so much.

And I'm grateful for the people who've walked with me along the way. My sisters Lori and Sherri. My family members. My friends-like-family. 

I'm grateful for nurses like Nurse Debbie who ran my mother's ICU room like a drill sergeant and had me throwing folks out. Who told me my mother was taking "baby steps" of improvement. Who also visited my mother once she left ICU and rejoiced over my mother's improvement, witnessing her sitting up in bed with a bright smile and bright eyes. Who told me, "Girl, she's taking a lot more than baby steps now. Look at her!"

The families that my sisters and I grew to love that also had loved ones in ICU. The families that I hoped with and prayed for. The families that I hugged every time I saw them. The ones whose family members have been discharged and sent home. The families who moved their loved ones to hospice or nursing homes. The families who had those infamous meetings with hospital social workers who pronounced their loved ones brain dead.

I'm grateful for each and every person who's walked this journey with me.  

This has been an amazing journey. 

And it's not over yet.

Thanks for walking this leg of it with me.


  1. This is such a beautiful series, Carla--I just went through and read all the episodes, and was very moved. Your parents must be such amazing, beautiful people...I've been inspired reading and learning from them, and also touched by what you've shared of the Lord's faithfulness and sweetness to your family in this time...strengthens my faith. :) Thank you for sharing, and I'm so very glad they are both doing better!

    1. Kiersti, thank you for reading and commenting. Life's been a whirlwind so I'm just replying. My father passed away last week, but the Lord has still been "faithful and sweet" to me and my family, as you've said. Thank you again, my sweet blogging-sister.