Twenty years ago my dad and I had the hard end of life conversation as I signed the forms making me his power of attorney. In the years that followed we’d checkin to make sure we were still on the same page. If the time ever came Pete didn’t want to be on life support, he wanted me to say “you lived a good fight, it’s now time to rest.” I stored this information in the deepest corner of my mind in hopes that I’d never need to use it. I always thought he’d die peacefully by the camp fire at our cabin. I never in a million years imaged that I’d have to make the call, let alone on his 70th birthday.
The hardest part was having the desire to pickup the phone and call Pete to discuss the options. I can’t count the times I picked up my phone to call him. I could call, but he wasn’t going to answer, he was on a vent fighting for his life. I had to make this decision alone. He had prepared me to make this decision alone. At 39 I had to make the choice of quality over quantity.
Sleep was hard to come by in the early days. Food? Yeah that was the last thing on my mind and Jay did his best to make sure I showered. Work became a distraction and in the hours that followed I just aimlessly drove around. I did whatever I could to fill the space. I alternated between ugly crying and well I’m not going to lie more ugly crying. Friends checked in often and prayers were prayed.
When my faith thinned God sent me warriors who stood in the gap and continued to pray when my heart could not. I was angry at God. We did everything right, we kept Pete in a bubble, wore our masks, got vaccinated, yet Covid it still came home. I was angry that my best friend was dying, he didn’t deserve to go out like this. I was so angry at God. God he saw my anger and he pulled me in a little closer. God he saw my tears and he dried them. When I could no longer utter a prayer God sent warriors to stand in the gap. To stand in the gap so that I could focus on one thing and one thing only, fighting for Pete.
On those solo drives through the countryside I cranked up the worship music. Even though I didn’t feel like talking to God, I could let the music do it for me. On those drives I often ended up at the cabin. I’d sit in the snow all bundled up in my winter gear and talked to Pete until my face was froze. The cabin you see is his heaven on earth, it’s his happy place. It was at this place that I realized something. This cabin just wasn’t a cabin, it was a “father’s love letter to his daughter.” Pete bought the cabin so that I’d have a place where I could roam free and let my imagination run wild. A place where I could run through fields of wildflowers while I chased down frogs for hours. A place that would quiet my mind and wash the worries of the world away. This land and these old logs are his legacy, a legacy of one man’s love for his daughter.
When my dad came off the vent and he was able to mouth words, the first thing he asked for was me. He would ask the doctor & nurses over and over “AJ.” At times because of the Covid fog he thought I was in the room with him. And when his nurse told him I wasn’t, it would break his heart. So his doctor made the call to let me come visit early, because the real thing is the best thing. On December 22, I got to hold my best friends hand and he didn’t let go. He kept looking at me and touching my arm to make sure I was real. His nurse Sarah said to me “I can tell you two are bonded, you are the reason he’s fighting to live. There’s nothing stronger than a father/daughter bond, that’s real love.” She was right. I was going to keep on fighting right along side of him so long as he still had fight in him.
On Christmas Day when he was in dialysis I went to the chapel and wept on my knees. For I got something that could never be put in a box. I got something that could never be wrapped. I got something that cannot be bought, I got the best gift ever, I got to witness a miracle. I got my father back.
And in that moment as I wept I thought about Teresa who in the early days said to me “let me stand in the gap. I will continue to pray while your heart is breaking. Lean on me and I will be your strength.” So many people stood in the gap and continued to pray when my heart could not. So many people got to witness this miracle. We got to witness a man go from his death bed to his resurrection bed. We got to witness the power of a daughter’s love for her father. We got to witness the power of prayer. For when we believe, for when we truly believe the seeds are planted and the miracles bloom.