Leaving Heartbreak Behind & Lessons Learned

Today my heart broke again, but just a little this time. On the tail end of a 4-day trip home, we visited Dad at the rehabilitation facility on our way out of town. We walked through the beige doors and into the beige hallway towards his room. But instead of finding him unconscious, or on a ventilator, or even bed-ridden as in visits past – we found him sitting in the “day room”, sharing breakfast and sunshine with his fellow rehab-ees, food trays picked over and PT appointments looming.

He spotted his granddaughter in Moms arms and smiled widely, waving to his healthy, well-dressed family as we filled the room. We gathered around him and assessed his condition. I can’t put words to what a joy and relief it is, to see my Dad returning to us a bit more every day. It seems as though the 4-month rollercoaster of life and death has finally ended, and he’s now climbing a slow ascent back into the living.

We returned to his cheery room and chatted for a few minutes, knowing that our flight was waiting and time was short. Dad agreed – the next time we saw each other, he would be with us again – at home.

The last of the group to leave, I hugged him and kissed his cheek, told him I loved him and would see him again soon. As I walked out of his room, I noticed he was fiddling with the levers on his wheelchair, attempting to turn towards the door faster than he was able.

Mom: “Honey what do you need?

Dad: “I want to walk them out, I want to see the kids leave.

I yelled to Serg to peek back around the corner with Aspen, so Dad could give us one last wave from the hallway.

As we walked away, my heart ached to turn back and see him sitting in his wheelchair, so tiny and thin in the middle of a gaping hospital hallway, his proud smile intact as he watched us leave. I wanted to turn around and say “Dad I’ll stay with you! I’ll stay until you can walk and care for yourself, until you can be the head of our family again.”

But I can’t stay, so instead I told him to “be good”, and walked out the door. Heart-broken, but only a little.

This time I didn’t cry, didn’t feel that I was leaving him behind to an unknown and despairing outcome. This time I felt I was leaving him to finish up his work – work that will get him well and start our family on a new chapter of happiness and hope. My heart aches for what my Dad has been through, but I am beyond grateful for the chance he’s been given. I’m grateful for the chance our whole family has been given.

So in honor of life and second chances, I want to share a few things I’ve learned recently in the hopes that I’ll actually remember them.

  1. Give more than you take. In family, friendship, love, money, career …even calorie intake. This is a big one.
  2. Be kind with your words. You never know which bus has whose name on it. Words can slice deeper than the sharpest sword, use them wisely and for love.
  3. Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat right, get facials, and chill out for God’s sake. If loving yourself is not good enough reason, do it for the people who love you. They deserve to have you around for as long as possible.
  4. Nurture your tribe. Your tribe is family and friends, both distant and near. They will eat, drink, laugh, cry and mourn with you. They will hold you up when you feel like crumbling, and then remind you that life will be good again. Take care of them too.
  5. Listen & take opportunities. Listen to your Grandpa’s war stories, dance with your Mom & Dad, learn your Grandma’s recipes, watch your kids splash in a puddle. You may feel you have better things to do, but I promise you there will come a day when you’d give anything to have the chance again.

    Some photos of the faithful and blessed tribe…

Airplane snooze
Skipping rocks with Uncle B
Huntin’ for Fairy Shrimp
Stationary “spin” in Nana’s convertible. Read: STATIONARY
More Brandy Creek action
Back home, on the pier.

5 thoughts on “Leaving Heartbreak Behind & Lessons Learned

  1. Oh Autumn Granny called me last night with all the good news I cried such tears of happiness. I love your dad so much and he is on my mind every day. I cant wait to see him. I love you and hopefully now you can exhale and know that he will be home soon. Love Shonda

  2. Hi cousin thank you for this – yes we are SO relieved. The road ahead will be long and hard for him and the whole family, but we have every reason to believe he'll be back with us soon. I love you too, let's reconvene in RDG or Chico with the kids again soon. xoxox

  3. Autumn, we were so encouraged by the news about your Dad's progress in his recovery. The miracle that he has survived so many challenges must surely be attributable to his remarkably strong spirit. I read your post about your recent trip & was touched by the feelings you expressed & the insights you shared. You have a gift for organizing your thoughts & articulating them with such eloquence. I forwarded it to Randy, who deeply connected with your message & was moved practically to tears. It was beautifully written, from the heart. Thank you for sharing. I hope that each day brings your beloved dad one step closer to returning home to his family. xoxoxo Cheryl

  4. Hi Autumn–

    I came across your blog after reconnecting with Kendra over linkedin.

    It's been a long time since we've been in touch but I wanted to say hello and that my thoughts are with you and your family. Sounds like you have been through quite a lot lately and you write so thoughtfully and sensitively about it all. Really beautiful musings.

    Your own little family looks lovely and spirited and happy. What a darling little girl you have!

    Sending good wishes to you,

    Carrie Snow

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