Love where you live!
God, I'm having trouble finding any hope.
I said those words nine years ago this month in the parking lot at Grossmont Hospital, where , on one floor, my father was awaiting serious news about his health and where on another, my mother had recently had surgery.
This was not the way I had ever anticipated things turning out, and in that awareness I know I am hardly alone. I reminded myself that many people find themselves facing end of life issues, that we are surrounded by a cloud of other wounded, puzzled and frightened people we just don't see.
God, I'm having trouble finding any hope.
I climbed the steps in the parking structure, my shoes clanking on the grippy metal pattern, smoke from some guy's cigarette floating up the stairs along side me like a body guard. I found it kind of comforting. More human than the cold echoing sounds on the industrial steps. When I reached the top level I saw the sky and was happy looking up toward heaven where I knew my dad would be heading soon. "I think my wings are almost done," he had said that late afternoon as I left. He had for years talked about angels making him wings. Not about dying.
My mom would be coming home soon and she would be fine. My dad would be coming home too, but with Hospice care and all that entailed. I felt like crying but for some reason could not. All I wanted to do was go home to my house, have a glass of wine and be alone; soon enough I would be surrounded by my family and friends as we gathered at my mom and dad's to stay while dad awaited the final touches on his wings.
God, I'm having trouble finding any hope, I said out loud as I got in the car.
And then, as if someone had sat down in the passenger seat beside me, I heard these words:
"Then you have to fish where you've never fished before. Drop your line deeper into the water. It's there. You just have to fish deeper." I said thank you in a whisper. Then I started my car and drove home.
The interesting thing about getting answers when you don't really expect to is that they are almost impossible to explain to anyone. They sound imaginary. But this answer made perfect sense to my soul, and it shifted and sifted down like beach sand in a jar of stones, filling in every doubtful frightened space. While my head still had questions, my heart no longer did. Instantly calmed, and with images of the deepest clearest bluest lake, I drove home feeling as if a little candle had been lit inside my soul.
When I got home, I poured a glass of wine and checked my answering machine before settling in for the night. Red light blinking. Someone needed something. Or worse, someone needed me, and I felt like I was as empty as empty could be. But we can't really call ourselves good world citizens if we ignore another's need, so I played the message.
It was my friend's wife calling to ask me if I would call her when I got in. Her husband, my friend, was dying and wanted to talk to me if I had the time. We had begun some long and meaningful conversations about life and death several times a month as his health had been worsening. I knew his wings, too, were almost finished.
I walked to my den and called my friend's number. His wife answered. She seemed relieved that I'd returned her call so soon. We spoke briefly as she carried the receiver to him in their bedroom where he was resting.
"It's Chris," she said softly to him.
God, I'm having trouble finding any hope, I whispered again. Fish deeper. Fish deeper. Find deeper, clearer water.
When I heard his voice on the phone, I could tell he was in a great deal of pain and I wondered what on earth I could say to him.
"How are you? " I said. I waited for him to find the strength to speak.
"Chris," he whispered, "I'm having trouble finding any hope."
Then tears fell. Silent tears of gratitude for the answer I had gotten there at the top of the parking garage under the sky.
"I know exactly how you feel," I said. I hadn't been wondering how to find hope just for myself. I was wondering for him too. The answer was for us both.
Then I sat down on the floor, and made myself comfortable. I knew just what to say.
"John, I think we need to go fishing together to a place we've never fished before. And we need to fish deeper. How about if I describe it to you while you rest? Let's imagine the deepest, clearest, bluest lake…"
© Chris Shea, 2011