A week ago today, Nate's dad was placed on hospice care at home.
Dad has been living with Parkinson's disease for many years.
Since Malachi's arrival sixteen months ago, we have seen Dad decline, so rapidly that at times we can't quite believe the changes as they are occurring.
Taking care of a baby (especially at my age) is tiring, but as I watch Nate's mom and all five of her kids care for Dad, I can see that what they are doing is far more exhausting.
Yet they are all doing what is needed, especially Nate's mom, day in and day out, not knowing how long this season of caregiving will be.
And knowing that at the end of it, a different grief waits for them. For all of us.
It was taken during the Tall Ships event on the North Shore in the summer of 2008.
My favorite memory of Dad from that trip was when we all stood in line for four hours to tour the ships.
The hordes of people patiently waited their turns, obediently outside the barrier fence.
Suddenly, we noticed that Dad had drifted (drifted is the best word for it, he moved slowly yet deliberately) across the border and was now inside the viewing area. No one was about to stop the distinguished-looking guy leaning on a cane.
He encouraged us all to join him, and I think he was genuinely surprised that we didn't.
That story kind of sums up his life.
He grew up poor on the North Shore of Lake Superior. He and Mom met while in college, and while they raised their big family, he plowed through years of schooling (while working full-time) until he eventually earned his Doctorate from the University of Minnesota.
He was not deterred by the setbacks of his youth, or by nay-sayers. He quietly kept proceeding till he reached his goal.
It wasn't hard to see that he got great joy from his grandchildren.
I cried a little when he qualified for hospice. But I cried much harder, I was just a faucet of tears all day long, when Mom told me that he had called out the grandkids' names during his agitated sleep.
The thought of him thinking of his grandchildren, as his memories swirled during the dark hours of the night, brought home to me the fact that they are a treasure to him.
With grandchildren, there are fewer expectations than there are with children. When they spend time with their grandparents, it's a pure gift, because they don't feel obligation.
They only feel love.
I have noticed, during this terribly difficult year, that the gift we get is not always the gift we ask for.
We asked for healing, and we got more disease.
We asked for peace, and we saw with the increasing dementia an increase in anxiety.
We asked for restoration, and we received time. Time to spend with a man who hardly knows us anymore.
But it's been a gift to see my husband and his siblings as they care for Dad alongside their Mom.
It's been a different kind of healing, a special grace.
I wouldn't wish it on anybody. I wish Dad could have had twenty more good years, and that my baby could have the memories of Grampa that our other kids took for granted.
Today we're heading up to their house, as we have on most Wednesdays this year. I'm so glad now that we've taken the time, even though some days the baby was hard.
We will probably find Grampa more dim than he was last week (he had a few bright moments, laughing at something Anna Kate said), and find Mom a bit more worn-down (she's always had more energy than any of us).
We don't expect much. We take the day as it is given.
Grampa and my girls in 2007.
Grampa and Gramma at the Fourth of July parade, 2007.
This song has been a great encouragement. Notice the last word is "rejoice."