My Last Walk With Dad

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Have you ever had one of those moments when you were so paralyzed with emotion and swirl that all you could do was just stand there in the middle of the room trying not to pass out or pick a fight?

 And the more you tried to articulate your next move...to yourself or anyone in earshot, the more paralyzed and swirly you got?

 You know from experience that it is only a matter of minutes before you POP.

 So best to remove yourself…and fast.

 I decided in that moment the only thing I could do was take myself outside for a walk.

 Forward motion, fresh air and the promise of peace.

 I knew it was the only thing I could do, so I grabbed my puffy jacket, my fuzzy hat and my cozy mittens and I started down the road.

 I was just trying to breathe. To move through the paralysis. To move through the emotion.

 I only got 200 yards down the road when I was overtaken…

 Bent at the waist with knee clutching sobs.

 I just let the wave wash over me...again…and again…loud, gasping sobs.

 The kind that shake you to your soul. The kind that transport you to another place all together…and when you finally awake…you realize you’re still standing in the middle of the road.

 I realized it was just two weeks ago that I was standing in the very same spot in the road, despair and angst growing in my belly.

 My dad had gotten out of our view for just long enough to make his way down the road. Just far enough to almost be out of sight when we caught a glimpse of him.

When I caught up to him in my car he had detoured off the road and started up into the woods.

 The middle of January, dressed only in a light fleece jacket, his plaid PJ's and his untied winter boots pulled onto the wrong feet.

I got him into the car without much of a fight, the cold outweighing the combativeness…and instead of making a U-turn to head right home, something told me to take the long way home. Up over the hill that looked out across the valley.

 With tears streaming down my face we slowed down to enjoy the view…Dad always loves a good view.  

 He ‘ooo-ed’ and ‘aaah-ed’ at the beauty…not noticing, not comprehending any bit of my grief. 

 We had reached a pinnacle point of no return.

 We had been defeated.

 Alzheimer’s was the victor and it was now here to claim its spoils.

 The level of craziness that had become our “normal” over the last 3 1/2 years had steadily grown…and over the last 3 months it had reached a critical level.

 It’s always with such clarity that we finally look back and see the growing stress and insanity that we were swimming in everyday.

Treading water in the deep end without quite realizing that we’d begun to drown. 

 For 3 weeks Dad had been packing.

 He was heading ‘home’. He didn’t know what that was or where it was or with who…He was just going ‘home’.

 Packing everything in sight. Every day. All day. For weeks.

 Trying to find something familiar. Something that felt safe, somewhere that he felt connected to.

 The disease had robbed him of any sense of familiarity… to the point that he felt he needed to go ‘home’.

 When we, his family, could no longer provide him that comfort… when we could no longer take him ‘home’, he made the decision to take himself…

 And off he went.

 And would continue to go, every chance he could.

 Returning ‘home’.

 Searching for a place that he felt safe, familiar and connected.

 

 When I got home with dad that day…the decision was made.

 It was time.

 It was time to navigate the next painful step.

 What I didn’t realize…and couldn’t possibly comprehend that day, as we got Dad into the car to go to the hospital, was that he would never be coming home.

 There would be no more walks in the woods or drives to see the view or sunsets on the deck or playing catch or mowing the lawn or splitting wood or any of the simple things that brought him joy.

 So… when I got to that spot in the road on my walk that day, just 200 yards away from home, the very same spot that I found Dad on his way up into the woods in his PJs…

 The grief, the sorrow, the loss all came flooding in.

 I realized in the moments between the sobs, as the words ‘returning home’ rang through…isn’t that all any of us ever want?

 Isn’t that what we are searching for? The feeling of ‘home’?

 To feel at home in your body, your mind, your soul, your job, your role, your home…your life.

 Home.

 Finding your way ‘home’ to who you truly are…

 Finally allowing yourself the space to get re-acquainted…

and indulging in the comfort and growing confidence that this coming ‘home’ allows.

 My dad‘s disease made him lose his way...but he still innately knew that if he found his way ‘home’ he would feel safe again. A place that made him feel grounded and connected and balanced. 

 You innately know that your true path to joy, love, fulfillment and freedom…is your path ‘home’.

Returning ‘home’ has always been a big part of my life…in many forms…even before I could put words to what any of that meant.

And now I realize helping others find their way ‘home’.

To feel centered, connected, confident.

To feel joy and love.

I realized in a flash when I was reflecting on my dad’s journey that my purpose had always been on some level, in some form, to help others come home to who they truly are…

the self-discovery, self-actualization, self-cultivation…the returning ‘home’ to who they’ve always been.

Recognizing yourself…again.

It’s so easy to lose your way, it happens every day, but if you have a place, a foundation that you can return to and tools that you can use to help you feel grounded and centered and connected then when you lose your way…you can easily and quickly get back on track.

Your path ‘home’ gets easier and easier to follow. You become more and more solid and confident in who you are and what you were put here to do.

And it brings you joy and inspiration every day.

Returning ‘home’.

My dad was/is searching for it… in his own way… and it makes me desperately sad that he will not find it here…during the time he has left on this earth.

But it is different for us. Let’s not miss our chance. You have a choice, you have tools waiting for you, and you can choose to find your way ‘home’.

You can find your joy…it’s waiting for you…where it’s always been…

All you have to do…is return home.