The Journey

Life is a journey. The destination, at least perhaps a major stop on the cycle of mortality/immortality, is the death transition in this world. I’m going to bring you on a journey with me that sees the players close to me. This may take the course of days, weeks, or months. I don’t know. I’m going to share it here because this is my way of dealing with this journey towards that milestone of death, of transition from a sublunary abode toward the open question we continue to ask.

This journey is mine only insomuch as I am the wayfarer, as one person called me today. A wayfarer is one who travels, generally on foot. We talked at length about being a guide, or perhaps a guide post for those who are transitioning from this life to the next. The lyrics of the song, which was beloved by a mutual friend who had passed over 20 years ago, are:

I am a poor wayfaring stranger

Traveling through this world alone

There is no sickness, toil nor danger

In that fair land to which I go

I’m going home

To see my mother

I’m going home

No more to roam

I am just going over Jordan

I am just going over home

I know dark clouds will hover o’er me

I know my pathway is rough and steep

But golden fields lie out before me

Where weary eyes no more will weep

I’m going home to see my father

I’m going home no more to roam

I am just going over Jordan

I am just going over home

I’ll soon be free from every trial

This form shall rest beneath the sod

I’ll drop the cross of self-denial

And enter in that home with God

I’m going home to see my savior

I’m going home no more to roam

I am just going over Jordan

I am just going over home

I vaguely remember this song from JB’s memorial and my friend reminded me of it today. It’s a beautiful song, filled with a weary, quiet longing for something more. It’s about the journey of life yet looking forward to the rest at the end.

This story, this journey we will be walking through, is my father’s. I’ve hesitated getting this out to a wider audience because, frankly, I need to get on this road with him and be his legs as he moves forward. The sorrow that others feel can’t be allowed to touch me, not yet. I will be sorrowful when the time has come; for now, I need to be the staff that supports him as he makes his way through this rocky road. He is an unwilling traveler. He does not want this journey and he has sought solace only now, from the few people he thinks understand him. The stages of grieving are full on him. We have moved, I think, from denial, through fear and anger, moving toward depression. He may stay in depression for a while as he processes. He’s felt emotions over and over that he hasn’t felt, probably, in years. We have moved into hospice care, now, at home, and will be spending his last days together.

He has not wanted to take my hand. He has not wanted to be beside me as I travel with him. So I wait, beside him in semi-comfortable chairs, feeding him lemon sorbet or jello, helping him blow his nose, and surround him with the silence he seems to wish. He’s frustrated and feeling inadequate. These are things that Jello just won’t fix.

For my part, I am tactical. I need to mobilize the forces, take control, rally the troops, gather the resources, and march. It’s what I do. I organize, I process, and just take charge. I am not unaware of how much work this is going to be. Long nights, long days, disruptive emotions while trying to work. This is what must be done. Like the baby that brings a new normal to its parent’s lives, my father is bringing a new normal to his child’s.

Believe me, I will ask for as much help as I can get.

I have moved, at least temporarily, into his house, preparing for a kind of solemn homecoming. He’s currently in hospice care facility, stabilizing him for the true journey. There have been many side paths, from asthma attacks, wounds that become severely infected, digestive upsets of all kinds, and the emotional upsets that come to one who must face their own mortality but aren’t quite ready for that prognosis. The side journeys are distractions, albeit painful and stubborn ones. It’s time for me to adult and take the reins, to help him discover a new path and a new way of thinking. If he will just take my hand…

The house is darkened and silent now, as night approaches. It feels familiar and yet foreign. It is not my house but now I must move on this journey with him in this place. I will make it somewhat mine so that it supports me in the work that I need to do. The plan moves into motion tomorrow, as I meet with home care workers, the hospice team at the care facility, and learn how to wrap bandages and take care of bed sores. How do you get someone out of a hospital bed safely? How do I order a hospital bed for the house? At the bank, we’ll discuss financial processes and procedures, designed to help support him in the coming days. Tactical. Functional. Practical.

You are coming on this journey with me, perhaps to be the lantern at the end of my staff. In full awareness of the amount of work coming my way, I need Light to guide me. You are my light. You are my sense of direction, of warmth, of home. I will need you in the coming days and weeks. When it gets tiring and lonely, I will need you. When I am tired beyond belief but still having to make the beds, I will need you. I hope that you’ll stay with me and be my guiding light. Please don’t worry or feel bad. Neither of these will sustain me. Your light, your hope, and perhaps doing a load of laundry for me – that will help.

I leave you now at the beginning of this journey to retire to sleep, to start the new normal, the new process. Please be patient with me. Please be quiet with me, and listen to nature, to the wind, and to the peace of the world. I’ll need this in the coming days. Sleep and rest with me, now, because we both have no idea how long this journey will take.


3 thoughts on “The Journey

  1. Bea Charlton says:

    You are not alone on your journey. We will send you light and strength as you make this journey with your loved one. Peace.

  2. curious3d says:

    You are strong and wise to head down this path with eyes and heart open. It will be hard, but you have more happy times and memories to collect yet. I’ll be following along, and sending wishes for patience, humor, wisdom and calm.

  3. dslack022561 says:

    You know that I have already enlisted. See you soon.

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