Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Happy Good-bye

My dad just died last Sunday, I'm in LA for the memorial service and to spend time with my mom.  There has been a lot of family get-togethers and I'm happy for the chance to see them all while missing my own dear family so very very much in Houston.

The one thing I don't feel is grief over my dad's passing, strangely enough.  Perhaps it was because I already said good-bye to him when I saw that Alzheimer's disease had already stolen away the father I knew and loved six years ago.  It was so strange to see his sparkling blue eyes, hold his gnarled hands and hear that familiar tenor voice singing old church hymns, and yet know that he was no longer able to hold a rational conversation, or even be fully aware of who I was.  That was the hardest time, because I wanted him to fight back against the disease,  I wanted him to acknowledge that something was wrong and to try his hardest to resist the slow degradation of his brain and eventually his entire body.  But he didn't want to talk about it.  These last two years he could no longer speak, though he could sing along with us strangely enough.  He was confined to a hospital bed or wheelchair and would still look at me with those eyes, though they had turned a bit dull.

Knowing that a bright, intelligent, energetic, hilariously funny and dedicated man who had served God as a missionary in Korea for 35 years, and had continued serving in his church for 12 more years in retirement, had faded into a fog of illness.  It was like watching someone you loved slowly sink and drown into a pit of mud.

But one day I had flown in from England and saw him alone in the hospital.  The doctor said he'd only last a few days.  I spoke to him about some of the deepest concerns in my heart.  I asked forgiveness, I poured out my heart, and I spoke to him about God and His forgiveness. Dad couldn't speak, but his eyes filled with tears and rolled down his cheeks.  He raised his hand to his head as if to ask me to pray for him.  He stared intently at me and made noises, trying to speak.  I prayed strong for him, and he cried.  He squeezed my hand and I kissed him on the cheek and told him I loved him.  I felt that I was speaking directly to his soul, that the disease had been pushed to the side and his spirit knew exactly what was going on.  When all was finished, his tears ended.

Something very spiritual and very deep happened that evening.  Though I saw him more times before I left, enjoying our singing and visiting, I was completely at peace knowing that when God was ready to take him home, both he and I were ready.  He lived for another two years, but always in discomfort, trapped in a body and mind that could no longer function.  When I heard the news of his passing after the Sunday morning service, I honestly was so happy for him to be free.

Last Saturday at his memorial service, with their pastor, my brother, my brother-in-law, even myself getting up front to speak or share, it was the most uplifting and happiest funeral I had ever attended.  There really was no room for tears.  He's celebrating his freedom for eternity, and all I can do is smile.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Love the Family Table

Every expert from the scientists at the Department of Health to your grandma will tell you that it is vitally important for your children to experience regular family meals at home.  They develop better social skills, participate in family discussions, eat healthier food while eating slower and more deliberately than those who wolf down delivery pizza standing up at the kitchen counter.  Not only children, but all of us benefit from this.

Everybody knows that eating a healthy home-cooked meal as a family is best, but just talking about the benefits has not changed the minds of women who still prefer to warm up something frozen and toss it on the table for whoever feels like wandering by to consume it when they're ready.   You may know that actual cooking is better, but there's always that lame excuse, "I'm just too busy and tired to be bothered."  Well, if you bothered to have these children, bother yourself to take good care of them.

I cook every day, with a few exceptions.  It takes time, it takes hours.  The preparation, the serving, the eating and the clean-up is time and energy consuming.  But the joy of seeing my family well-fed and happy, seeing them come home eager to know what's for dinner, knowing that they were looking forward to my food - it's worth it all.  There is something very healing and calming about a family that joins together over food they love; sometimes a dish that's familiar and comforting, or other times a new and interesting dish to test out.  Even those exotic new dishes that we decide we don't want to try again, are a fun experience for us all to laugh about, and I'm always given points for effort!

So for all the bullet points that the Health Department can list off about the positive effects of home cooking, do it for you.  Do it for the very selfish reason of getting extra kisses and hugs, lots of thanks and a quiet peaceful evening after the dishes are washed because everyone's tummies, hearts and minds know that they're loved.

I've seen plenty of photos these days of the young women who are going through their initiation phase to enter the Sisterhood, and one of those ongoing tasks, is cooking and setting a proper table for their families.  One after another, I hear how much happier their home has become just through these meals alone - meals made to be special, delicious and beautiful to look at.  If cooking can melt the hearts of a stressed-out family, isn't it worth all the effort?  Don't know how to cook?  If you know how to read and follow directions, you can cook.  Now open those cook books and get cracking!

(Thanks Camilla, Yuliana, Blanca, Ana, Pr. Lucas and Jorge for letting me use your picture!)