It has been one year and one day since I saw my beloved father alive on the face of this Earth. 366 days. 8,784 hours. 527,040 minutes. 31,622,400 seconds. And that is probably the amount of tears I have shed missing his physical presence. The past two weeks have been flooded with memories, last memories of my dad, bad memories of Charlotte and her steadfast decline into a spiral downward that continued until the summer, and memories of how life used to be.
It is hard to not get caught in up in anniversaries, events, memories of the past. Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are sad, and sometimes when you look back you realize your lack of appreciation for how good things really were - for at the time it didn't feel good, and you knew no worse. As we move through the motions of the day to day living, and check off the calendar days of September, my mind is constantly drawn to the "last year at this time" memories - even without the social media reminders that pop up on my newsfeed every day.
A year ago on the 21st we brought Charlotte in to her neurology appointment it was a Monday, her appointment was at 4pm. She was seizing every 5-10 minutes. Neurology took one look at her and said she needed to be admitted the next morning for an egg. We brought her home, tried to stop the seizures and she started getting sick respiratory wise around ten. I had her next to my bed and she was dropping her oxygen all night and needed the extra support of oxygen. I remember thinking if we could just make it through the night until our admission in the morning we will be ok. I barely knew how to crack an oxygen tank back then, now I can do it in my sleep. When I look at that reminder photo it is amazing to me how terrible she looked, and shocking that I didn't see it then. (and I think about how ridiculous it was that I dressed her up for her admission when she was doing so poorly - but hey fashion is always first in this house when it comes to the girls).
A year ago on the 22nd of September I hurriedly walked onto Unit 6, our home, knowing she was doing terrible, but felt safe because I was surrounded by help. Within two hours of arrive, a rapid response was being called, and flood of people were pouring in to the room. At that moment I was no longer a nurse, I was a terrified, trembling mother, standing helpless on the "parent side" of the room, while doctors worked on Charlotte and tried to get her stabilized. She was breathing almost 100 breaths a minute at that point. I remember the nurses, the doctors, the respiratory therapist, the young doctor who I was probably older than explaining to me what was going on like I didn't know, and me wishing with all my heart that I didn't know. I remember the transfer to the ICU, the switch to bipap, something new for her in her older age. The struggle to find a mask that fit her correctly. The nurses who held the mask they had on her face throughout the day and night trying so hard to keep her from getting intubated.
I remember how irritable she was the last few days my dad was alive. Every breath startled her, every bubble of saliva that the mask pushed out. I remember my dad walking onto the ICU early on Friday morning - the last day I saw him - cooler and computer in hand so that I could walk up to a flight of stairs and work a shift on my unit. I remember checking in with him, him diligently working on his computer, him laughing when I told him that Charlotte liked to be patted on her chest to calm her, saying "if you think I am gonna do that for 12 hours you are nuts", but then of course when I came down the next time he had the chair pulled up to her and was softly patting her chest, his head resting on the crib. His eyes filled with love and sadness. I remember finishing my shift, my dad still perched by her side, Charlotte struggling, him asking how I was doing, and tears flooding my eyes. He left his post by the side of her bed and wrapped his arms around me when I told him how sad I was for her and with tears in his eyes (I could tell by his voice), I remember him saying "I know kiddo, I know." And then I remember him packing up his stuff and saying "I love you" and walking out her hospital room door. For some reason I went and watched him walk down the hall, not truly knowing the implications of our last encounter, seeing him for the last time with life flowing through his body. Our last good-bye.
Memories can be hard, they can be painful, they can occupy your brain and push the present out. But they can be beneficial too. They can be reminders of the fragility of life, the unpredictability of how life plays out, and ultimately remind you to not to take one single second in the day for granted, because I know you have heard it likely a million times, but you truly never know when a moment may be your last. And that is the very foundation of "Seize Your Joy". The time is now. Not another second should go by without stopping and finding the Joy present in your life - whether it is the company of family, the cool brisk fall air, the laughter of children, smell of cut grass, the drops of rain...all of these things are can be joy, and taking time to embrace the Joy that they bring will change you.
Despite all the memories that are flooding my brain the past two weeks, we have experienced quite a bit of Joy in our house - joy despite seizures, and rescue meds, worries about Charlotte, and the missing of my dad. Your life doesn't have to be perfect to have joy - mine is chaotic and messy, and in disarray despite what may appear on the outside and yet the joy that we have is ever present, a constant reminder of the blessings we have even in our sadness.
This Sunday at mass I started out as I always do in prayer, only this time I prayed so hard for something from my dad, anything, to let me know he was ok, I prayed that the Lord would tell him I loved him, and I prayed for strength as I entered what I know will be a hard week. Then the opening song was "I am the Joy"....now if that isn't a sign I don't know what is. I am pretty sure our special guardian angel is up there doing some overtime for us and for Charlotte, because some very exciting things are in the works - I will share when I have confirmation they are a go, but truly believe that my dad is working hard up there to make sure that Charlotte's life is filled with as much Joy as possible. While the void that he left is still a gaping hole in my heart that has yet to be filled, I am pretty darn lucky to have such an amazing person watching over my little family. I may have a hard time grasping that his work here on Earth was done, I know in my heart that he was needed up in Heaven for bigger and much more important things.
This week we are choosing through our sadness of memories of times that used to be and through the loss we feel this week more than ever, that we are going to live the week in Joy. We are choosing to see Joy, and find Joy in the all little moments that fill our day, and we are trying to spread Joy to the world around us. We may have to work a little harder to find the Joy, but it is there, always surrounding us and filling our spirits with goodness and strength, and I hope that we can spread that this week more than ever. Make sure to take some time this week to seize your joy!