birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Looking to the End

We were not prepared for this change in our father. He was fine one night, in the hospital the next, now in a rehabilitation facility where he is working hard to get better but where he is suffering from the hospital doldrums, or perhaps some sudden breakage that happens when we get older--just as our bones become brittle, so can our minds.

My sister and I have danced around the issue of what we would do should Dad begin to lose his ability to get around, to care for himself, and to be independent. We've never addressed it head on with him or with each other. We are not prepared to do so now, but we are pretty sure this is the beginning of some change that will be irreversible. A normal change, one that we all will face as we start to approach an end, but a change few of us truly plans for.

Dad has certainly not planned for it. I think he thought (he may still think, though I doubt it right now in his altered, diminished state) he was invincible, maybe not immortal, but even at the age of 91 he thought he had many more years of a happy, productive life ahead. And he may. This could simply be a harbinger of what may come ahead but one that allows him to return to his life of living alone at home. He is sad and frustrated in his hospital room, yet still trying hard to rise above the situation. My sister and I are worried, sad, and trying hard to look past this hospital room and anticipate what we should do next to prepare for his possibly neediness without stepping on his independence. We are not prepared to do that just yet.

As I drove home from the hospital tonight I was agonizing about this then I recalled a conversation Dad and I had several months ago when he uncharacteristically began to talk about his view of death. He told me that he believes in a higher being. My father waved his hand toward the back window of his house, which looks out on a wooded landscape from which deer and foxes and hawks and owls slip in and out, crossing past his windows and the sky.

"That is God," he said. "I don't believe in heaven and I don't think I will see my parents or your mother or anyone else at some pearly gate once I'm gone. I think I will just be asleep and be done. So I am living this time the best I can."

He has been living his time to it's fullest until this past week's illness arrived. He may still have much life to live fully when we are past this. I hope so. But if not, I think perhaps he is better prepared than we are--not for the easing out but definitely for the letting go.

Exhale Softly

Ready or Not