Wednesday, September 12, 2012

If You Just Smile

People are kind and good, checking in with me the way they have lately.  Continuing to do that even though there isn't any sort of guarantee that the person they invited for a playdate or dinner is going to be the person who shows up.  I'm still prone to sobbing with little provocation.  Trying to hide grief from a very sensitive Turkey often leaves me cranky and exhausted and weeping in the shower.  Lord knows I despise the phrase, but I've been told "it is what it is."  So I smile a lot.  It's easier than trying to explain.

We went home the day after Christmas to visit, and honestly, to scope out the situation with Dad - to get a sense of his physical state and state of mind.  The Hubs and I had done some video interviews with his parents at Thanksgiving, and as you might imagine, there was quite a sense of urgency surrounding getting my own Dad on camera.  Fortunately, Dad wasn't a particularly reticent guy.  Despite the undercurrent of "we may not have another opportunity to hear you tell your own story", he was a cheerfully willing participant.  I'm glad.  We used a list of fairly standard questions at first, the typical "where were you born" and "what was your first job" and "of what achievements are you most proud", but because Dad was the subject and it was what Dad was prone to doing, we ended up veering off topic into places we found we enjoyed more than we could've imagined.  Just so you know, he was proudest of his wife and daughters and grandbabies.

I was thinking about smiling today.  I've been thinking about smiling a lot, ever since a friend posted the chorus to this beautiful song as her Facebook status.  In thinking about smiling, my thoughts wandered to all the times my Mom has said she only heard Dad complain once in the seven months he knew of his illness.  That complaint went only so far as to say he was tired.  He must have done a lot of smiling too, and it drew me to a whole new list of questions.

So, Dad...

What was it like for you, hearing the doctor tell you you had cancer?  That the kind of cancer you had wasn't one that a surgery or some drugs would cure?  How did you feel when you knew your prognosis was essentially five percent survival rate at one year, and zero at five years out?  Did you begin to say goodbye right then?  Remembering what both your parents experienced in their own losing battles with cancer, did you get angry with God?  How did you find the strength to endure seven months of treatment, knowing what was sure to be the end result?  You said you were ready, that you had reconciled yourself to your death and were right with your faith - how did you come to that reconciliation?  And how did it feel once you had?  Is there anything you left unsaid?  If you did, was it purposeful?

When you left the house that last time, you knew, didn't you?  How did it feel to say goodbye?  Did you know we were with you when you breathed your last?  Did you stay with me in that room, in spirit, as I helped the nurses take the tape and jewelry from your body?  Did you know I was with you when the neurologist pronounced you dead? 

Do you miss us?

And just like you smiled for seven months knowing the answer, I have to smile knowing I don't.  I'll never know how you did it.  As if you didn't already have it, you earned my undying admiration.

So thank you, Nat King Cole, for this beautiful song and these words I've grown to live by:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. What an amazing man you have as a father. He is an inspiration for us all to just smile and keep a positive attitude even when our whole world might be crashing down around us. Love and hugs to you.