Each Life That Touches Ours for Good

"...I know that you
can break each branch of mine in two,
carry every leaf away,
shake my limbs, and make me sway.

But I have roots stretched in the earth,
growing stronger since my birth.
You'll never touch them, for you see,
they are the deepest part of me..."

I have very few memories of my father. Every day those memories lose a bit of life so I'm left with still pictures of moments I know I had. Being only six at the time I don't remember a lot of what happened. It was sudden and it caused quite a wave in my family, as I'm sure you can imagine. This event, as tragic as it was, is a defining trial in my life. The pain I felt, and will always feel, reinforces a strength in my roots that nothing can touch.

Despite the impact the death of my father has on my life, it is not the trial I'd like to describe in this post. It was the death of my step-father, Irwin, that "...[carried] every leaf away, [shook] my limbs and made me sway."

My mom married Irwin shortly after my dad died. Being a widow with 8 children (2 under the age of six) I can't say that I blame her. Despite her haste, we really lucked out with Irwin. He was a great father to my little brother and I. I can't speak for the older siblings, but over the course of 11 years he eventually made a space for himself in all of our hearts.

Irwin was 11 years older than my mom, a professor at a nearby college, and actually knew my father. From my point of view he brought stability, love, and laughter to a family who, at the time, was in shambles.

It took time. At first I was completely embarrassed by him. He exuded so much energy and quirkiness that when I wasn't laughing at him I was hiding in humiliation. He was the loudest cheerleader on the soccer-field, the worst dancer at the 4th grade hoe-down, and everyone thought he was my grandpa! Looking back, I'd give anything to be embarrassed by him again.

Six years into my parents marriage, Irwin was diagnosed with cancer. I don't recall many of the details, all I know is that my life and attitude toward my step-father changed. He became someone I could lose. A feeling that was all too familiar.

Irwin would struggle off and on with cancer for the next 5 years. Those five years were the years I spent strengthening my roots with Irwin by my side. He would greet me every morning with "Good morning, Tallulah, isn't it a beautiful morning!?" There were days when I'd answer with a forced smile because I didn't want to add to his burdens. I just wanted to spend as much time around him as possible. I didn't take any moment for granted. As a result I have so many rich and warm memories to look back on. Something I yearned for with my father.

I was at girl's camp when I heard he had slipped into a coma. I was in a daze until I started packing and then realized the dreadful day had come. Luckily I had an amazing friends with me when I no longer kept my composure. I'll never forget the two sets of arms that held me as I cried my first of many heartfelt cries.

When I got home he was in and out of consciousness, lying on an unfamiliar bed that came with the hospice nurse. He beckoned for me, and as I came to him he said jokingly, "Do you like my bed?" His words were so weak and strained, as if he'd been holding on to tell me one last joke. The last thing I said to him before he was lost to unconsciousness was "I love you." The Sunday before I left to camp I knew I needed to open up and tell Irwin thank you for being such a great father to me. He told me he considered me his daughter. With that conversation in mind, I left his bedside without regret.

It was a long night. We were ushering in family that lived out of town. It was busy but peaceful. Tired and weary, I retired to bed, knowing that he would be gone when I awoke. I had said my goodbyes. I was ready for a new day.

I've never felt anger toward God for the death of my fathers. I've always trusted that this was what I was suppose to go through. That these events would define the person I was to become. It was through the lives and deaths of these great men that I truly found my character.

When the "winds of unpredictability" blow I know where to turn. It doesn't always make it easier, but I know in the end I'll be okay. I just try to remember Irwin's struggle and realize that every morning
can be beautiful.


Mamma Mia said...

Thanks for sharing this. Puts things in perspective. You made me giggle at the image of Henry dancing. And you made me tear up at your beautiful description of your love for him.

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