The word, “compassion” keeps popping in my head lately. I’m not exactly sure why, but when these things happen, I find it’s like a two by four clocking me over the head…. at first slowly tapping and then over time, increasing in velocity and strength… until I finally stop and listen.
Recently, my dad told me he’s ready to die. He’s 86, lived a wonderful life and although mostly healthy for the time being, he’s suffering. He’s suffering in a body that he says, no longer serves him the way it used to. He’s tired from the stroke ten years ago that left him physically weak and unable to speak clearly. He says it’s up to the “Big Man Upstairs” as to when it happens, but he’s ready.
I can understand that it’s hard for a man, who was so naturally vivacious and charismatic in his earlier life, to feel limited. My natural instinct is to convince him why he should carry on and stay positive. The reality is, however, that I don’t want to let him go. I don’t want to see things from his point of view. I want to see them from mine. I want him to stay around for as long as possible.
I think that’s why the word, “compassion” keeps hitting me over the head. It’s not about me. It’s about me supporting his journey, his process. It’s about meeting him where he is…. not where I want him to be. As difficult as that is, I find I’m often disappointed by those we love because my expectations of them are different than their own. I’m working on changing that by stepping aside and getting out of the way. I now find myself asking my dad, “What can I do for you today” as opposed to trying to reason with him on why he should live. I tell him I love him over and over.
It’s hard, though, watching someone you love give up. I’m continuing to work on being a witness to his process of accepting that life is ending. It’s hard. He may be ready to let go, but I’m not. I’m practicing compassion for him, but also for myself.