April 15, 2011


I've come to realize the importance of gifts this past week. Gifts don't have to be wrapped up in a package with a pretty bow. My first gift was a hard one: visiting Dad in the nursing home, not knowing it would be his last day. I read from a Larry McMurty book called Boone's Lick. He had started that book last summer for something to do during his monthly infusions. Dad had several visitors on this last day. It was a gift to meet with them and learn how Dad had touched their lives. These encounters were really uplifting and will not be forgotten.

After Dad passed, I contacted as many of his friends that I could find to let them know. This is when I recieved a second wave of gifts. Dad had lots of friends! I mean LOTS! It seems that once Dad made a friend, you were a friend for life. He had friends from his childhood that he still kept in contact with, not to mention his 'golfing buddies', and even Mom's co-workers! I was blessed to have found Dad's old-fashioned rolodex wheel. Through scratched out phone numbers and worn out yellowed cards, I was able to contact MORE friends.

The gifts continued! Condolences, well-wishes, blessings, offerings of support and meals. I was hearing and reading about my Dad through the memories of others. Heart-felt stories, funny stories, typical "Jimmy" antics! Family members shared childhood memories. Some of these stories were new to me, while some were not. I listened to them and heard them differently this time. I appreciated these stories, longed for them.

Dad struggled with his health for a very long time. He was lovingly and jokingly called 'our kitty'. He overcame Polio as a child, beat the West Nile virus, lived with Diabetes and Myasthena Gravis. Later, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Then...he broke a hip. While losing Dad was certainly not a gift, his passing gave him peace. No more pain. No more suffering. The comfort in knowing Dad is no longer suffering is a gift.

My fourth gift has been with me for 43 years, my brother. Two years ago, my brother and I started on a journey that molded us into adult caregivers. Our Mom entered hospice in 2008 and passed away in 2009. I was in a position to fly home every 3-4 weeks to help with her care. My brother took the reins when Dad fell last November. Dad needed him close to home. I wrestle with the guilt of not living closer, but recognize the gift of my brother's sacrifice to care for Dad day-to-day.

You may know this man as 'Jim', 'Jimmy', 'Jimbo', 'James', or simply 'McDowell'. I know him as 'Dad'. The best gift of all!

1 comment:

  1. We just found out about Jim's passing. We will miss him. Always smiling, always a good friend. God Bless you and yours.

    marshall and susan branson