Courage at Twilight: Glad You Survived

Despite Dad’s continuing profound weakness, I see how much he has improved since his hospital admittance a short thirty days ago, when he was too weak to talk or to eat or to raise a finger or toe, when his light was almost extinguished, when he wept to see his siblings, to whisper “we have never been angry with one another,” to sigh his life’s great spiritual thoughts and convictions perhaps one last time, witnessing of Jesus and the process of atonement He works in our hearts and minds every moment of every day for every human being—to be more kind and humble and teachable, generous and self-sacrificing and good, forgiving and loving and meek—working not only to forgive sin and wipe away tears but to uplift and ennoble and exalt: that is Dad’s Savior. And he told us again about the old dream, when he stood observing a great green grassy field filled with babies who crawled and played and sat looking around as babies do, when a great snake emerged from a hidden hole and coiled itself around a defenseless child and slithered back toward the dark hole.  Whereupon the Dad in the dream ran to attack the serpent, to rescue the child, to beat the snake back into its hole, to feel the relief of avoided tragedy and the joyful energy of victory.  But another snake slithered from another hole and grabbed another baby, and Dad reenacted the rescue.  And another snake and another battle.  And a growing fatigue.  And a growing awareness that the field was infested and the babies so vulnerable.  Then waking into the questions of the meaning of such dreams where the feelings are real and the stakes are real and high, and of whether the field could ever be rid of serpents, and of whether he were strong enough to persevere in battle knowing that to rest is to condemn the defenseless.  Then glimpsing an image of a small oil lamp lighted and placed atop a peach bushel on a hill overlooking a green grassy field.  In the hospital, I watched Dad’s life-light flicker, knowing he has done his work tirelessly and well, that many many serpents have taken his beating, and many many children have been rescued, that the disciple had helped the Master do His Kingdom-work.  So now he fights on, and Victor has repaired the sprinkler pipe for station 7, and Baxter measured and photographed the staircase and took the lift deposit, and PT Virgilio declared the yellow band too flimsy and gave Dad both a blue and a black, and Cecilia helped him up the stairs for a shower, and Harold the wheelchair sits in a corner while the flower-print walker still works, and Dr. Hoffman said limply “glad you survived.”  Dad wondered all afternoon about that word, “survived.”  Yes, he is surviving, not cured, not healed, not strong, but surviving, his lamp still full and aflame, for another great-grandchild, also named Owen, who arrived today from the heavens to crawl and giggle in the grass under Dad’s acute and ready eye.

Pictured above: the view of the mountain from Dad’s and Mom’s kitchen, with the oak and maple turning red.

The broken pipe that caused the big leak.

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