My dad has aggressive stage 4 cancer. Last week he was admitted to the hospital near where he lives, and my husband Jim and I made the 4-5 hour drive to be with him. My mom died several years ago and I’m an only child, so the responsibility for hard decisions falls solely on me. Fortunately, my dad had shared his wishes with me a long time ago, and I have been able to make decisions about treatment in accordance with his wishes.
For some time now, I have tried to practice twenty minutes a day of centering prayer. Between hospital activity, tending to things at Dad’s house, and finding a skilled nursing facility for him to go to upon leaving the hospital, I found it difficult to settle into a mode of centering prayer last week, and when I tried, there were many thoughts swirling around in my head.
What I did discover, however, were centering moments every day. A predawn cup of coffee on Dad’s porch while listening to owls hoot, two fawns chasing each other in a field as we drove to the hospital, deer at Dad’s house crunching acorns, sunset over the lake, breakfast entertainment of a baby squirrel and its mother, two turkeys crossing the road as we returned to Dad’s house from the hospital at dusk, and the thinnest sliver of a moon hanging in the sky on the evening of the day we settled him into a nursing facility.
These signs of life remind me of the eternal presence of God even in the midst of difficult circumstances. They help me remain centered in the flurry of medical personnel, visiting family and friends, and decisions to be made. I am grateful for them and rejoice in the gift that they are to me.
Life is always changing, but times like this draw our attention to that reality more acutely. In joys, sorrows or sameness, God is present, if I will only pay attention to the signs of life around me. As I continue to walk this path with my dad, I am grateful for signposts that remind me that the journey doesn’t end in defeat but in victory.