On Waiting, Which Sucks, And on Love, Which Wins in the End

There’s very little I like less than waiting. 

Natural disasters, perhaps.

World hunger, certainly.

Debilitating disease, for sure.

But waiting? Ranks right up there. On the Top Ten List, probably, of Things I Like Least.

  1. Debilitating Disease
  2. World Hunger
  3. Disasters
  4. Waiting
  5. Jeans Shopping
  6. Bra Shopping
  7. When My Socks Twist Inside My Shoes
  8. Slow Drivers in the Passing Lane
  9. That Claw-Crane Arcade Game That’s Everywhere — EVERYWHERE, Including the Grocery Store — That’s a Money Drain and a Time Suck But My Kids Want to Play Anyway. DESPERATELY Want to Play. 
  10. Pooping My Closet

I admit I’m a do-er. A task-er. A planner. I like things like Action Plans and Lists … and phrases like Work Hard / Play Hard, even though Playing Hard, to me, often means laying in my bed reading a book or laying in the sun beside water. I read that book HARD, though, friends, and I soak up sun like I MEAN IT, you know? 

Waiting makes me jittery, though. I don’t know how to do it well. It’s not in my skill-set or how I’m naturally inclined. Now, I have no trouble with Waiting’s close cousins, Procrastination and Laziness, but WAITING? Waiting exists in that space in between Doing Something and Doing Nothing; it requires presence and mindfulness — active pursuits of the soul and the heart, except with a still body and, I imagine, a quiet spirit. I suck at that.

I’m at the hospital today, in the Cardiac Surgery Waiting Room.

A WHOLE ROOM dedicated to Waiting. Full of Waiting People. Full of Jittery People. Full of Quiet and Serene People. Full of Both/And: Nerves and Peace, Mindfulness and Mess, Ups and Downs, Ins and Outs, Overs and Unders — feelings just all over the place.

My dad is having open heart surgery right now — a mitral valve repair by a world class surgeon — and there are Things I Know and Things I Don’t Know. 

I don’t know how this surgery ends, for example. And I don’t know how I feel from one minute to the next. I don’t know what lies on the other side of today, although I know what I hope and what I pray, which is for a long time — a long, long time still — with my dad.

I do know this, though: I know my dad loves me. And he knows I love him. I know I’ve said all the things I need to say, whether we have another hour or 40 more years. I know we’ve loved each other well. I know my dad loves his wife, my mama, and I know he loves my husband, my brother, my sister-in-law and our kids. To the moon — he loves us to the moon.

I know we’ve worked hard — really, really hard at times — to listen to each other and value each other and let each other grow and change even when we think the other’s position is effing nuts.

I know we’ve laughed more in my 41 years than most people laugh in 100.

I know Love lives. Because my dad told me so, I know Love lives. Love lives. Love lives — no matter what — and Love wins. 

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UPDATE: Thanks for all your prayers. All’s well.

After some drama yesterday afternoon and a second, unexpected surgery to keep us on our toes (during which I wrote the post above and felt angsty and talked to Jesus A LOT and said all the fucks), my dad came through fine. He’s on the mend, cracking jokes and being his usual gregarious self, albeit with a little less energy than usual. We’ll take it! 

It’s not lost on me that this could have gone differently. I’m sitting in the Cardiac ICU waiting room right now while my dad rests, and I’m watching the jackets and half-empty coffee cups and phones and computers left behind by an extended family who are about to lose their mama and grandma. They were going to keep some family members in the waiting room on a rotation to watch the things while they took turns saying good bye — her heart is beating slower and slower and her time here with us will soon be gone — but I said, “I can do that for you if you like. I know I’m a stranger, but right now I’m your friend. I’ll sit and keep vigil with your things if you want to sit and keep vigil together with the one you love,” so they walked together through the doors and down the long hall, holding hands.

This Waiting Room is a strange thing. A sacred space full of relief and solace and excruciating pain.

Two days ago, my 2nd graders had a music concert at school. They sang Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World, and over and over and over the last few days, these lyrics have run through my head: 

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

The bright blessed day. The dark sacred night. 

I don’t know, you guys. Sometimes the nights just seem dark, you know? Just dark and LONG, and, even though I know the dawn is coming, I begin to doubt it. Every long night, I question whether the dawn is coming. And I forget that the long, dark nights — the Waiting Rooms of the earth and of my soul — are sacred ground, too. And places of grace. And that it’s OK to need each other then. That the needing of each other is part of what makes the dark nights sacred. 

So, on this bright, blessed day when my dad lives and thrives, and this dark, sacred night when another family says good-bye to their mama — Both/And, friends; so very Both/And — whether you’re in the bright day or the dark night, I send you my love. My love and a hand to hold and the reminder that we stand on sacred ground through it all.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
24 comments
  1. […] in the dark and let us know we’re not alone, though it feels so very much like we are, while we wait for dawn, which is inevitable but oh-so-slow to arrive, like waiting for the watched pot to boil. Some of […]

  2. […] the last month’s maudlin, weepy, emotional post about my Dad’s open heart surgery, I thought I’d provide you with the other side of hospital life. The fun side, man! […]

  3. […] My dad had open heart surgery, and then my kids started puking. Of course they did. Of course they did. Because illness waits for no one, as parents everywhere know, and I did not have the time or energy for pukers this week. Nope; illness waits for no one, and it’s certainly not going to book a time on the calendar that’s convenient.  […]

  4. Chills. Beth, you speak to my heart. I wish you and your family the best.

  5. I’m waiting and waiting and waiting for my father who will turn 80 in a few weeks to turn around and come back to me. He and my mother disowned me 20 years ago when I married a man they didn’t approve of. For a few years after marrying the love of my life I tried writing chatty letters to let my parents know that my life was good and that I’d like to have them be a part of it. My mother sent a letter back that asked me to stop writing because my letters made them cry because I was content with my “messed up” life. I tried calling them to get updates on what was going on in their lives but they have caller ID and wouldn’t pick up if it was my number. The one time I called from a phone with a number they couldn’t identify my mother answered and as soon as she realized it was me, told me that she didn’t have time to talk and refused to make arrangements to talk at a more convenient time.
    So I wait for that call from someone – maybe my brother, maybe an uncle, but I know it definitely won’t be my mother – telling me that my Dad, who was such a great, loving, encouraging parent when I was growing up, is gone. I hate waiting for that, too.
    So here I am waiting, waving in the dark, and wishing you many more years with your Dad.

  6. I can so empathize with you! After 25+ years of my Daddy’s heart surgeries (heart catherizations, stints, bypasses, etc etc etc) I have a serious aversion to waiting rooms – ANY waiting room. I also have aversions to other types of waiting as well: on test results, for doctor’s to make rounds, for hospital staff to answer when the call button is pushed, etc etc etc. My Dad passed away in January – but his death was not(ironically) heart related – 12 days after his 78th birthday and he packed a lot of living and laughing and loving into those 78 years! I pray that your Dad has a quick and uneventful recovery and that you are granted many, many more years with him – I cherish the ones I had with my Dad!

  7. Read the blog post. Read the comments. For the record it’s allergy season here in Oregon.

  8. Thank you for the update. To steal a line from you ….. I know I’m a stranger, but I’m also a friend. It’s weird, this waving in the dark, which is when I usually have time to read, and over the vast emptiness but crowded idea that is cyberspace, but somehow it often works. It helps.

  9. Hi, Beth — I think perhaps today I speak for many of your readers, people you don’t know, people who are hesitant to comment because, after all, what is there to say, especially when you don’t even know them and vice versa.

    But because of the raw openness with which you share yourself, we feel like we *do* know you, and as such our hearts break a little when you’re waiting like this, and they soar a little hearing that things are looking good for your daddy, and our eyes tear up when we picture you keeping watch over the belongings of another family making it possible for them to share precious final moments together with their loved one.

    I hope you know how many lives you touch — sometimes making us laugh out loud (I still laugh whenever I even *think* about your pooping your closet!), sometimes making us cry, often giving us something to think about, touching even those of us whose faith looks quite different from yours with that very faith….

    So I have to think I’m not alone out here, sending heartfelt love to someone who is, technically, a stranger. And sending thanks for all that goes well with this difficult process and strength when things are going less well. And looking forward to whatever you have to share in the future.

    hugs,
    –arden–

  10. Oh Beth,
    Such writing.
    I’m so so happy for you that your dad is OK. Praying for you all in the aftermath – because even though he’s ok, there’s still an aftermath I think.
    And praising God for your grace in caring for others in your own dark night.
    I should be making a salad to take to a function, and I’m running late. But I’m sitting here crying from your beautiful words, and the image you have conjured. I hope it’s OK if I share what it’s brought back to me.
    Five years ago, my dad drove himself 5 hours to a country specialist to see if he needed a stent put in his heart (this was after an episode of driving 5 hours to see another specialist who didn’t realise HE HAD JUST HAD A STROKE & sent him 5 hours home again!!!). The short story was an emergency airlift to the top cardiac hospital in Australia, in Sydney, for an emergency bypass. Quadruple Bypass. My poor mum was in the early stages of dementia (but we didn’t realise it then) & had to come from the country by herself, and navigate the big city to get to the hospital. The first night, we sat there waiting for his helicopter to land. It was such a hard waiting time. But nothing to being in the Cardiac Post-Op ward. You have summoned that so poignantly, and taken me right back there.
    He needed that Quadruple Bypass, and He’d already had at least one stroke, so another one during surgery was likely.

    It was so terrifying. My mum & I sitting in that little white waiting room. Everything was white. And you could make yourself a cup of tea, but we couldn’t find the supplies. The strange things you remember.

    And then going in to see him. In that white, terrifying room. So quiet, so serious. So many beeping machines.

    My dad looked so tiny. This man who had terrified my through my childhood, with his strength & his anger, looked so small and helpless, and we didn’t know yet what was ahead for him.
    Which did turn out to be another stroke.

    This man who didn’t really know how to show me that love is real, because no-one had ever shown him that love is real. And my tiny, terrified mother, who was beginning to wander in her own darkness, that would only get worse. But I was so frustrated with her, because I didn’t understand.Oh, if only I could go back in time, and care for her better.

    I wish I knew you then, because I know you would have waved in the dark. And I hope I’m not hijacking your story, with my own. But I’m really glad you’re waving in the dark now, while I’m sobbing for all I didn’t weep for then.

    You know, my dad’s always been a stubborn man, and he made it through. He has had lots of challenges, but he’s still here.

    And he’s showing love daily to my mother who is now in her own dark night.
    Sometimes the story doesn’t have a happy ending, but there are glimpses of grace still I guess.

    And a theme song for waving in the dark – It’s an Australian band, so in case you haven’t heard of it, here it is: Sheppard: The Best is Yet to Come. Look it up.

    Here’s a link on Youtube (not the best clip, but if you like it you can get it on itunes).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTxKAnuTPiw

    (and for some fun-for-the-whole family, their song Geronimo/Bombs Away is the bomb!, my free-and-a-half year old says “louder mummy, really loud” every time I put it on in the car)

    *Waving in the dark, my grace-filled friend*

    1. There are echoes for me in your story. The dad who was so angry and so big and so scary as a child. An old boyfriend described him as “larger than life”. Unable to show love because he was brought up by people whose parenting ideas came from the Victorians. The quadruple bypass that brought an unexpected afermath – return trips to the hopt for complications, wildly accelerating Parkinson’s, now dementia.

      1. oh gosh Jennifer, it’s weird isn’t it.
        And my heart breaks for you too. Waving in the dark my friend, and walking right alongside you too. Hugs xx

  11. I’m so thankful Ian is doing well. Even when doctors say it’s “routine”, it never is for the patient or the family! I have known some very painful waiting times in hospitals, and my heart was and is with you, Sandy and Jeff.
    Love,
    Judy

  12. All hugs and love to you and your family Beth. Thinking about you and sending you every bit of faith and love that everything will be fine.

  13. Keeping you all in my prayers and praying for a speedy and full recovery for your Dad

  14. Hi Beth, your thoughts that you so generously share have helped me through uncertain times. I hope you don’t mind if I keep you and your family in my thoughts during yours. I hate waiting too, usually counted ceiling tiles, light fixtures, wondered why waiting room chairs are always so uncomfortable if they want you to sit in them instead of roaming the halls like a trapped animal, went on every errand I could think of imaginable within the hospital. I am thinking of your family tonight and hoping that all goes wonderfully and your father has a full and speedy recovery.

  15. im thinking of you! Hoping everything goes well!

  16. I hate waiting, too… especially when it is something like that, where it is hard to even distract yourself by reading or something! I will be a wreck if I am ever in that situation with one of my parents! I hope everything goes as smoothly as possible.

  17. Praying for all of you!

  18. i’m holding space for you and your family today. You do what you need to. We will be here.

  19. Would you like me to put your names on the temple prayer rolls?

    1. Hi Aiden. This is Beth’s brother. We like prayers. We’ll take any we can get. Thanks!

      1. Alright, they’re there. 🙂 I hope everything goes perfectly.

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