I share a personal journey here in the hope that it’s universal, that this resonates for you in some way no matter the source of your sorrow.
A sadness always settles on me this time of year.
The light of long days dwindles and nature decays and dies. Leaves drift like scraps of paper to the ground, green grass begins to blur to brown, and an undercurrent of chill pushes into the early mornings.
The sadness this season, however, is deeper. It’s also about dad, seeing him decline. He is like a bent-over tree, whose branches bare themselves, whose roots have been withering since the stroke five years ago.
Now, as I sit with him here on the deck as he naps, he is asking me strange questions, erupting periodically as he rouses. Who took your camera? Where did those papers come from? What is that over there?
I look down at the college ruled 3 subject notebook next to me. Students are back in school now and will fill their pages with copious notes from courses in English, math or the sciences.
My notebook is filled with medical notes and appointments, logging dad’s health in bits and pieces, what has been done for his care, what more needs to be done.
I woke the other morning thinking of dad’s INR levels, the many phone calls for his IVIG treatments I had to make and other pressing medical issues that required attention. Who wakes in the morning thinking these things?
I am sad for all of it.
If I’m honest the sadness is not only about the loss of dad and who he once was. It’s also about the loss of the life I once had. I want to wake in the morning with time for creative writing, plan a day trip, splash my feet in the ocean, travel to Scotland or Spain. But even if I did these things, would the sadness go away?
Most likely not.
These words are not complaints or about self-pity, but a simple acknowledgement that sadness is part of life’s journey, a testament, I believe, to how well we love or have loved.
Whether we are a caregiver or not, decline and loss will visit us in one form or another. It will hurt. It will feel horrible. We will want to push the sadness away.
But in the end, accepting it is all there is. A delicate balance of not drowning in the sorrow, but allowing ourselves to float in it, to look up at it, like leaves drifting from their source and finding some peace with it.
In her book The Mermaid Chair author Sue Monk Kidd writes:
“There’s release in knowing the truth no matter now anguishing it is. You come finally to that irreducible thing and there’s nothing left to do but pick it up and hold it. Then, at last, you can enter the severe mercy of acceptance.”
I still struggle with this acceptance. Tears are always at the edges of my life, remembering that I haven’t had a coherent conversation with dad in almost five years since the stroke, recalling the dynamic man and inspirational speaker he was, and the times I would ask his guidance.
But all I can do in this moment is walk over and pick up dad’s hand and hold it. To know the truth of this unrelenting sadness. To allow the pieces of sorrow to fall from my heart like the dying leaves.
To pray to enter the severe mercy of acceptance.