My Dad modeled perseverance through suffering.
I remember a conversation we had about his cancer, in his last weeks. I was in my angry stage of grief – facing the likely fact of his impending death. And I wanted him to be angry too. He wasn’t.
He said something that I will always remember. “Jenny, dying of cancer is not nearly as challenging as being mentally ill. They don’t bring you casseroles when you’re in there fighting your mental disorders.”
My dad’s battle with cancer took up the last five years of his life. But, it was not his focus. As much as he could, he continued living, believing, hoping. He worked every day that he could during cancer treatments. He got well for a small length of time. He kept his sense of humor, and in general, remained upbeat, even in spite of discouraging news from doctors. During his battle with cancer, my mom also found out she had breast cancer. They walked these challenging days together.
These though, were not their only dark days within their 35 years of marriage. My dad had his first bi-polar episode when he was a young adult, before they were married, but they were together. This was the first of several episodes he had in his adult life. I don’t know all the details of these struggles. Parents are wise to not share every detail of pain with their kids. But I did know something.
I remember when I was 7 or so. My dad was “sick” in the hospital, for a few weeks. It seemed like forever. But my mom kept us all very “together”. When my dad got home from his stay, he had made me and my sister a pink octopus. It was made out of yarn, around a tennis ball. I can see this octopus as clear as I can see this computer screen.
I remember when I was 18, and I had come home from college for a long weekend. My dad was the first one up in the morning. I joined him for coffee that morning. He was kind of “out of it” from shock treatments he had received. Mom shielded us a bit from Dad’s suffering, but he had recently been in need of treatments for some severe depression. Well, our conversation that morning was very unusual. He asked me, “What is your name?” “Have you been in college awhile now?”
My dad persevered through his suffering. He depended on the Lord for hope in despair, for life in the midst of death, for Christ to be an anchor, even when things were falling apart.
Again, I don’t feel I truly know how bad it was. My mom has shared more in my older adult years, than she did when we were younger. A part of her processing I imagine. But I do know, with great confidence, that MY DAD persevered through some real, deep, steady pain.
The day my after my Dad passed away, Matt and I took my mom to see “A Beautiful Mind”. We thought it was about a brilliant mathematician. Well, it wasn’t. It was the story of a marriage, and a fight of the man, to win, even in spite of severe mental illness.
It was actually the worst movie we could have seen to help my mom feel “better” in that moment. But at the same time, it was the best movie – because it was their story.
We thought we were going to have to helivac my mom out of the theatre. It was a hugely difficult movie to watch her view, and it has been one I have watched again, so I can “see” their story more and more.
i woke up yesterday and thanked my God for my Dad…