June 1st, 2019


May is finally over. For educators, May lasts about 18 weeks. A smart colleague of mine compared it to tax season for accountants. I agree.

It is that time of year when we are saying goodbye. Because our school years have a definite end, often retirements are grouped about this time of year.

Friday it kind of hit me all at once. I had another retirement party and messages of thanks from two incredible educators who are leaving that I had the honor of working with over the years. I was a little teary when my friend Whitten walked into my office to ask me a question about something. I can’t remember what our brief conversation was about now, but the last thing she said as she left has stuck with me. She said something like, “The world needs truthtellers.”

She’s right.

That applies to whatever we were talking about that I can’t remember because, May, and it applies to a lot of other things as well.

It is June now and that means Father’s Day is barreling toward us and I can’t hardly breathe to think about it because it will be the first one without my dad.

I’m going to try to write now about some of the harder moments around my dad passing away. I have always processed by writing, but there are a lot of moments I am still not ready to look at hard yet. I guess I will just take a few at a time.

There are three truthtellers that figure into this part of the story and they all told the truth in different ways.

The first was with chocolate.

There was a minister who visited the ICU waiting room on more than one occasion while we spent time waiting to know if Dad was going to be okay. He had what he referred to as a chocolate ministry. He made this truly incredible homemade chocolate that he brought to people who were waiting. He offered conversation and prayer too- but the chocolate- ghost pepper, raspberry, mint…all kinds… was offered with no expectations. As I took the shiny little blue box from his outstretched hands, he explained that he was there if we needed him. I remember opening that box and being surprised at the chocolate and I thanked him for it. He said that sometimes we needed to be reminded of the goodness and sweetness in life. Or words to that effect. It is a blur in many ways. I do remember telling him that chocolate was also good for keeping dementors away. I appreciated his belly laugh at that. I told him a little about Dad’s condition and he told the truth by what he didn’t say. He didn’t say it would all be okay. He didn’t say I shouldn’t feel sad. He didn’t ask me to examine my faith. He didn’t pretend that the situation didn’t totally suck. I am thankful for that truthtelling… and for the chocolate.

The next truthteller was my brother. My sister is a truthteller too, but I can’t write her part yet. I don’t look too good in that part of the story, and I’m still too tender to share it.

So, my little brother told the truth in many ways. Two of them are burned into my memory. The last time my brother and sister and I were going into the hospital to see Dad, when there was not a lot of hope for recovery, I remember Steven saying, “Today there is going to be a miracle at this hospital. Either Dad is going to be okay, or he is going to go to Heaven. Either way, that is a miracle.” After Dad died, when we were leaving the hospital in the early hours of the morning, my giant little brother, who had been our rock so much of the time, fell to his knees, for just a moment. You know, sometimes great pain is physically overwhelming. I remember thinking how much respect I had for him in that moment. He was not afraid to tell the truth to himself- it hurt so much- and then he got up and carried on. He was not afraid to be human and vulnerable. I knew my kid brother was a great guy. I didn’t know just exactly how strong and wise he was until we went though this experience together.

And finally.

The neurologist.

We listened carefully to what all of the doctors and nurses on Dad’s care team had to say. But, when the neurologist arrived to talk about my Dad’s amazing brain, we dropped- literally- whatever we were doing or eating or saying to run and hear what he was going to tell us. His job could not have been easy, faced with a sleep-deprived, scared family hanging on to what hope he might hold out. He gave us the bad news calmly and clearly, but with human warmth. When we tried to spin it, he didn’t spin. Brene Brown says clear is kind. That neurologist did not say what I wanted him to say, but he did not hold out false hope. He told the truth. He was clear. It was time to say goodbye to our dad.

So that is it. Three truthtellers.

Thank you for taking time to read my self-therapy. I hope you will take time to give thanks for the truthtellers in your life. They are precious, even if the situation is not so dramatic. Can you think of a time someone told you that you had a hair sticking up or broccoli in your teeth in a way that let you know they cared? That is a gift. I am blessed to be surrounded by kind-spirited truthtellers in my life.

We do need truthtellers even when we don’t want to hear what they have to tell us.

Especially when we don’t want to hear.

That’s all I got tonight. It’s messy, but sometimes that is how life is.

Speak the truth in love, and have a sweet Saturday.