Friday, October 3, 2014


I don't know what the 'official' definition is - 
and I'm too lazy to 'Google' it;
all I know is that I suffer from it every fall.
For me, 
its a combination of nostalgia and depression;
recognition that much of the beauty around me 
is caused by things that are in the process of dying.

Add that to the reality 
that my ex-husband, father, grandparents
and several dear friends have all died in fall 
and you have the perfect storm.

For me,
the fact that all of us have short shelf lives 
makes them all the more precious...
and makes the choices
about how we live them
more important.

In conversation recently, 
someone asked if I came from a 'religious' family'.
My response was "not really".
family legend has several 'faith stories' -
about my mom and younger brother 
being 'saved' by prayers to St Christopher 
(the only Saint my mom could remember) 
after a difficult and protracted delivery 
and both of them being given last rites;
about my father being 'given' a gorgeous tenor voice 
and position as a paid soloist in our church 
as a way of "Gods getting his ass to church"
 so he could be 'saved' from his struggle with alcoholism;
and I remember church every Sunday, 
singing in the choir, 
staring at the stained glass window - 
at an angel with a mauve headband that I coveted -
during particularly long and boring sermons.

But there wasn't much talk about God on a daily basis,
nor was there any religious statuary 
in some sort of homemade shrine or altar.

I would have said my mother was the driving force 
behind our family's attendance at church 
and any beliefs about God I absorbed during childhood.

So I was more than a little surprised to find a copy of a letter 
my father wrote while he was dying of cancer 
which spoke directly to his faith.
The letter had been in my mothers safe deposit box.
When I closed the box out and brought everything home, 
I put it all in another, far less secure box in the basement - 
and forgot about it.

Keep in mind this was written during the time 
before Advanced Directives were commonplace; 
a time when people (like the husband of Terri Schivo) 
had to fight for the right to terminate extraordinary measures
for a family member; 
a time in which the very definition of what constituted 'extraordinary measures' 
was far more contentious than it is today.

What a wonderful gift it was to find the letter this week- 
to be given a look into the workings of my fathers heart 
in a way I'd never seen before.

The letter reads, in part,

Miracles do occur and new methods of treatment are being discovered that may, in time, aid in recovery, 
but I have to concern myself within the realities of my disease as they are now. 
Within the framework of what I have to deal with, I accept, without question, God’s will for me. 
To wish for a few more months or even days of life beyond that which God allots me, 
especially at the expense of my family, is a selfishness I cannot permit myself. 

To hope for a miracle or cure in these final months and days is an exercise in futility I have no desire to undertake; 
to wish for any additional time would be meaningless and much less than honorable under the circumstances; 
to die with dignity merely means that I surrender my will to that of a compassionate God as I understand Him. 

Times change, morals change and people are altered by them. 
can’t say that I have added or given much to the world in general by passing through it. 
I have lived, like so many millions of others, mainly an uneventful existence. 
If, in living this life I have wrought no great change, 
I pray that I have caused no great hurts or evil either. 
I have lived quietly and, for the most part, privately. 
I hope that I am allowed to die in the same fashion - 
quietly, privately and naturally - without any artificial extension or heroic efforts - 
comfortably in the hands of God.

To Him I commend my soul; 
knowing that His will for me is best. 
To ask for more would be an act without faith 
and truly, at the end of the road, 
all I have is faith in Him.

I'm so glad my father wrote this letter. 
I'm glad my mom saved it.

I'm glad I've had time to savor it 
in quietness,
when creation is ablaze with the beauty of things 
at the end of their life cycle too.

Thanks, Daddy.

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