Keep Calm and Carry On... I've always liked this saying, and I'm not sure that it has ever before been so befitting as a mantra to help me keep my chin up. This catchy phrase was a slogan created by the British at the start of World War II. The slogan was one of several created for posters to be used to boost morale during a particularly trying and scary time for Great Britain. (This particular poster was never actually released to the public during that time though because it was being saved for an impending invasion by Germany (which never occurred). Most of the posters were destroyed but one of them was rediscovered in a book shop over 60 years later, and this reassuring phrase has since gained increasing popularity.)
To say things have been particularly trying and scary for my family this year is truly an understatement. It is merely the middle of March, and yet this has already been an extremely difficult year for me and my family. You've seen me mention in a couple of blog posts that my Dad has been really sick. It has been too emotional for me to talk much about the details. I think when you write things down, they become more real, and I haven't been prepared to accept all that was going on.
On March 4, after two excruciating months in the hospital battling congestive heart failure and a debilitating lung condition called, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS, my Dad lost his life. He had a seemingly mild heart attack just before Christmas that unfortunately went misdiagnosed until serious damage had occurred and he suffered congestive heart failure. My Dad wasn't one to give up easily. He was home a mere four days later working with my sister and my stepmom on a new diet regime and preparing himself for rehab and a serious overhaul of his daily routine. Unfortunately, his heart was not as strong as his spirit for life, and he was back in the hospital in critical condition by New Years. We thought we were going to lose him then. I flew back to the States to be with my family and to say "good-bye" to my Dad. He coded several times, and was essentially on life support just to stay alive. It was painful to watch, but we tried to remain optimistic.
After several procedures and critical operations, my Dad's heart finally stabilized, but his lungs were suffering with ARDS. Every day was a roller coaster ride of emotions for my family. He was in a medically induced coma for 84 days, and each day my stepsister and stepmom woke up at 5:30 a.m. to be with the doctors during rounds and to pray for improvement, and my other sisters were right behind to join them for support. My Dad had regular visitors that stayed with my family all day long at the hospital, made meals, and helped hold things together. I needed to be home here in Germany, and even though I knew that it medically made no difference if I were there, the distance from my family was really difficult. I waited anxiously every day for updates on how things were going.
Instead of improving, my Dad's lungs went from critical to worse. The doctors had a meeting with my family to explain why they had essentially lost hope that Dad could fully recover. It wasn't two weeks later that his body had had enough, and it was time to say good-bye. It still doesn't seem real. I'm not sure any of us are ready to accept that he's gone...
So, Keep Calm and Carry On... that's what I'm trying to do. I know he's with us all in spirit. He had many struggles in his life, as many of us do, but he was in a very happy place when he died. The whole thing seems surreal like a bad dream. I know time will heal, and I also know that the one thing my Dad would never want is for us to stop living. Despite all of this emotional upheavel, things in life have been busy and we have much to look forward to this year.
Emotions might overshadow humor, but let me tell you, do I have some stories to share. Life carries on whether you expect it to or not, and this family has been busy. My growing stomach is a constant reminder that we have much to prepare for. Little r is potty trained and yet he never disappoints having an "accident" in the most fantastic locations at the most opportune times. My trip home for my Dad's funeral was rought with craziness. I'm frantically trying to prepare a presentation for my teaching assessment next week (yikes)! I went on a ladies' weekend escape to Tuscany that I can't wait to tell you all about, and the baby's room is finally looking less like a bike storage space with a crib and rubbermaid bins and more like somewhere that a little boy might actually want to sleep.
It seems life hasn't been kind to a number of my close friends and family this year. We aren't the only ones that have been faced with emotionally trying experiences. I hope we can all hold each other close and help one another through these difficult times. Just remember that you are not alone. I have been reminded of that at every turn.
I'm sending my love to all of you, and Keep Calm and Carry On...xoxoxoxo