Wednesday, December 5, 2012

strength isn't how much you can handle before you break; it's about how much you can handle after you break.

My dad had his brain surgery in 2006 in Indianapolis, as that's where the best doctors were. Indianapolis is about three hours away from my house in Chicago, so my brother, sister, and I were only able to visit him once for about three days. We came about two weeks after his surgery. Leading up to this visit, he had been predominantly unresponsive and was in intensive care. We would communicate with him simply by talking loudly on the phone to him while our mom pressed it up to his ear. We would say things like "I miss you" and "I love you", hoping that some part of him could maybe hear us.

When we got to the hospital, I had no idea what to expect. The first time we got to see him, he was awake and responsive. It was good to see him alive, but he was far from himself. He was asking us about a plane crash that he confusedly thought in and was making no sense. Tubes were all over the place and his entire head was bandaged. This visit was very short, as I ran out of the room in tears about two minutes into it. For the rest of the trip, most of it was filled with sitting with him while he rested. He slept so much at this time, and it was always a very deep sleep where not many people could wake him. The nurses would actually slap him or hit him to wake him up if they needed to. 

I was only 13 when all this was going on, so it's amazing to look back now and reflect on aspects that I didn't pick up on or dwell on. During the entire time in the hospital, I fought to hold back tears, hoping that I could keep it together and appear strong for the sake of my younger siblings. I think to an extent that's what everyone was doing, including my grandma and aunt who came with us on the trip. Nobody knew how to act or what to say- each minute was taken at a time because nobody truly knew what was going to happen to him. Was he always going to be like this? Was he ever going to be able to function alone? Would he always be so confused that even when he was clearly in the hospital, he thought he was in Florida on vacation with the family?

This may seem very strange, but as I think about it all now, the power of faith and God shines through this entire experience. I'm not saying any sort of miracle occurred, because he still has no short term memory and was affected drastically. However, even when he had no idea where he was, how old he was, etc., he still had an immense, ever present faith in God at his foundation. Often when he was in those deep trances of sleep, he would tightly grasp his rosary the whole time.  If you looked closely at his hands, you could see that he was ever so subtly moving the beads with his fingers, indicating that he was saying the rosary in his head.  

There's a chance this could have been a subconscious movement, but I now see this as a sign from God and from Mary.  Even when my family was seemingly falling apart and the leader of the family was becoming dependent on his 13 year old daughter, God and Mary were with us, guiding us through this difficult time, giving us hope.  It also shows my dad's tremendous strength and inner-peace.  Instead of being scared and acting weak during this tragedy, he stayed faithful, never losing sight of the fact that God WILL take care of him and of all of us and that He has a plan. Even when his world was flipped upside down and he had no perception of reality, he still had faith at his core, never faltering even at his lowest moments. This ultimate faith and strength is what I strive for each day, and what I hope to one day have.