On Thursday, July 14, Dad received the news that he had no hope of recovery. He walked into the doctor's office and walked out again with only the help of a cane. That day he fed himself. He used the bathroom by himself. He brushed his own teeth. By Tuesday, July 19, Dad was needing help with his hourly bathroom visits. By Friday, July 22, Dad's health had plummeted to the point of not even being able to feed himself. My younger sister, who lives in another state, arrived that day to help care for him.
For the next four days, Linda and I were on call 24-hours a day. She had left her children home with her husband and mine were home with Shawn. Showers, meals, and sleep schedules revolved around Dad's needs as he continued to weaken. My older sister, Anne, joined us for part of that time. By Tuesday evening, my youngest brother Richard arrived to relieve us. Anne returned as well. Linda flew home. I reunited with my family and melted into Shawn's arms, sobbing from exhaustion and sorrow.
Those four days were difficult and amazing all at the same time. On one of the mornings, my mom (a former foster child) stepped out of her room and said, "Isn't it wonderful that we have a family?" My four siblings and I have scrapped and squabbled all through our growing up years, but we have always known that family is precious. We just never knew exactly how blessed we have been.
Dad arrived at the clinic in Mexico on Wednesday, July 27, just thirteen days after his fatal news. Getting him down was a tag-team relay for our entire family. Linda booked plane tickets. Richard and Anne shaved and bathed Dad. I packed a month's worth of Dad's clothing, then drove Mom and Dad to the airport. John flew down with Mom and Dad to the clinic and returned home again that evening. During that entire day cell phones rang, emails flew, messages were texted - our family was abuzz with planning, scheduling, and communication.
Wednesday evening, after hearing Dad was comfortably settled at the clinic, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. We had done it. We had worked together towards one common goal - to get Dad the help he needs - and accomplished it. The rest was in God's hands.
That night I lay in bed thinking for a long time. We don't know exactly how long we'll have our dad with us. For that matter, we don't know exactly how long we'll have each other. But to have a family, no matter how big or small, to have a team that pulls together when needed the most, is an amazing gift. Chills ran up and down my spine as I blinked away tears. "Lord," I prayed, before drifting off to sleep, "Let me give this precious gift of family to as many others as I can."