Home Tomorrow

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Another surreal day–sometime I’ll write about it but not tonight. My dad had the angioplasty as scheduled–not one but two arteries 70% blocked. He got stents in both and is resting comfortably in ICU. The doctor expects to release him at noon tomorrow and my dad’s new lady friend, Fran, an expat who lives in Boquete, will stay here in PC with him till Saturday. Not out of the woods all the way, but already, Dad’s color is so much better.

As for me, I am wiped out. I have packed, and am heading to bed. Up at 4 tomorrow to catch my flight back to Miami.

Privileged Daughter

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I never forget I am a daughter or privilege. I slept in my parents’ house in Boquete last night. Though Pastora, my dad’s housekeeper, had already left for the day when I arrived, the bed in the guest room was made up with the lace-trimmed linen sheets my mom only used when I visited; there were fresh-cut roses and a small pitcher of water in case I got thirsty in the night, all set out on the table next to my bed. There are any number of small details that go with privilege.

There’s another kind of privilege. Though my dad is weak, he is as lucid and clear as ever. Especially since my mom died, we have learned how to talk to each other with a level of honesty and clarity that isn’t easy but a rare and extraordinary gift. Everything seems to indicate he will pull through, though more fragile than before. With my two brothers in Europe, and after the hell of the last 5 days with limited ability to stay in touch (I don’t have an international call plan on my cell phone and the place I was staying in Tahoe had no long distance either), the biggest part of my time here will be spent putting some new pieces in place for my dad’s safety net. I am working with three nurses, expats who were part of my mom’s hospice team, who will take turns being Dad’s healthcare surrogates, going with him to Dr appointments, assessing how he is doing regularly, staying in touch with my brothers and me, letting us know when it is critical for one of us to come to Panama.

My dad and I also talked about his financial realities. He is not on any insurance and his medical expenses have just increased dramatically. At what point does an 86-year old widower living far from his children start refusing medical treatments that are so expensive they would jeopardize his ability to live out his life with dignity and independence? With far less fear of death or squeamishness than I could have imagined, we talked through that enough to have a better understanding of how we can honor his integrity and who my dad is. Then, a really hard moment. Since my mom died, the crematorium that received her body in David has closed. We talked about what needed to be done in the event that he simply dropped dead unexpectedly. Tomorrow in Panama, I will work with the funeral home that took care of both my grandparents’ cremations, and the bodies of cousins, great uncles and aunts and other relatives who have died here in this country. We hope they will be willing to pick up my dad’s remains in Boquete if he dies unexpectedly and alone, cremate him, and keep his ashes till one of his children arrives. As are Dad’s wishes, when that time comes, his ashes will follow behind my mother’s down the Rio Caldera to find their rest with her in the Pacific Ocean.

My dad is so brave, so honest. There were moments of piercing sadness for both of us in the conversation. We agree he needs to sell the house he and Mom built, their last major life project together, and move into something smaller and more manageable–and also improve his financial liquidity. Every morning, he walks out to where my mom’s orchids still hang and bloom so he can say good morning to her and feel her close by for a few moments. The strength it takes to let go of that. The goodness of getting to be real about life and death with him–something that has brought us closer together than I knew one could be with a parent. Pure privilege…

The focus of the Fourth Week of the Exercises, which I would be wrapping up tomorrow, is resurrection. I am not interested in dissecting the events in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. But I know this: over and over again in these past few years, I’ve had to face the worst kinds of situations; the scariest, awfulest things imaginable have happened. Like Mary Magdalene on that Sunday of resurrection, I have flown towards that which I feared most, wondering who would roll the stone away, how I would be capable of doing what needed to be done. This time, like the others, the pain, even the horror, have not had the last word. That is what helps me understand resurrection. The Gospel of Mark tells that when Mary Magdalene and Mary got to the tomb, they were told that their beloved friend and son was not there. But they had to go to the tomb–they had to be real about the death that had occurred to discover that. The empty tomb pointed beyond itself to a new horizon. I think maybe our lives do that for us as well, more often than we are able to recognize.

Where I Am

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I hadn’t had this happen since my corporate days. I opened my eyes this morning and I had absolutely no idea where I was. Fortunately, I had dropped my boarding pass on the nightstand before collapsing to bed. As soon as I saw it I remembered I was in a hotel in Panama City. I have since flown into David. My dad is in the hospital, a little stronger but still awfully sick. They think he may have Mono, though there is now some question that he has Lyme’s Disease–he was bitten by a tick in Sweden. Since it isn’t that common around here, he will get the test done at the hospital in Panama City. Tomorrow we fly back there since Dad is scheduled for an angioplasty on Wednesday. I have reservations to fly back to Miami/Ft Lauderdale at the crack of dawn on Thursday. A little discombobulating, but life. Today I am grateful for the silence of a hospital room while my dad sleeps, after the craziness of 7 airports in 48 hours…

Resurrection in Everyday Life

I am sitting at the Reno Airport, headed home 5 days sooner than I had hoped or planned.  Last week my father was diagnosed with arterial blockage and then hospitalized in the fair city of David after becoming progressively weaker and tired.  He was released from the hospital and sent home to wait to treat the blockage. The plan was he’d fly to Panamá this coming Tuesday for angioplasty and to get a stent put in.  Yesterday, I got increasingly concerned calls from Panamá–Dad continues to get more weak and the people around him in Boquete are concerned.  The timing is awful, of course. This retreat has been grace-filled beyond words and selfishly, I so wanted to get to do the full thirty days as planned.  After taking so many days off from work, any further absence is really hard on the whole system.  And what I barely allow myself to deal with is the fear about my Dad and his health. I have tried to strike a balance.  I am heading home to Fort Lauderdale so I can get to Panamá very quickly if the situation worsens. But for now, we are leaving the plans in place and a friend from Boquete will go down to Panamá City with my dad on Tuesday. One of my cousins who lives in the city will also be available to help for what should be a relatively easy procedure.

In the Ignatian Exercises there are four ‘weeks’, four steps, if you will into the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  When the calls began yesterday, I was in an especially intense part of the 3rd week. In a sense, I was observing Good Friday.  I woke up at four in the morning.  My room at St Nicholas is one of those places that’s so dark when you turn out the lights that you can’t even see your hand in front of you.  I lay in that pitch darkness and it occurred to me that even on Good Friday, there was a dawn.  For Jesus’ friends, it was not welcome–it only made more real what had happened the night before and only held the promise of even more violence and horror.  But somewhere in God’s creation, that morning dawned as crisp, and clear and beautiful as the first morning.

With that in mind, I got it in my mind to go out to the dock where my friends and I gathered at the beginning of the retreat to catch the sun coming up over Lake Tahoe.  At 6:00 I walked out the door all bundled up against the 21 degree temperatures and headed on my usual route. There are some pictures of the sunrise at the end of this posting.  To say it was a holy time in the most majestic of cathedrals imaginable does not do the morning justice.

I want to think that along with finding myself thoroughly in the 3rd week of the Exercises, yesterday morning I got to see a flash-forward of the fourth week.  Sad as I am to have to cut my retreat time short, I am also certain that I need to be closer to my dad, praying I won’t be needed.  Last night, Joe, who has walked with me and helped open the way for doing the Exercises, wrote me an incredibly beautiful note encouraging me to consider that it is back in my “cotidianidad” (everyday-ness) where I can best experience how resurrection intersects with my life.

This morning, I was up early, cleaning up and leaving the flat I got to call home for the past 26 days ready for someone else who needs the respite and blessing I found.  Then I walked down the path I have followed every day since I arrived in Tahoe, to get some money out of the closest ATM.  Like yesterday, today is crystal clear, cold and stunningly beautiful.  During my time on retreat, there was an elm tree I got to be particularly fond of in that path.  When I arrived, it was still green with just a tinge of yellow.  Over time, I watched the leaves turn, found myself deeply moved by the way in which the leaves, already yellow and paper-thin frail, continued to dance tremulously with the breezes off the lake.  Today, there were hardly any leaves left, just the strong, beautiful trunk and branches covered in ash-colored bark.  Death and life.  I leaned against my friend and wept.

I leave this time with new clarity.  Joy, sadness, some regret, unexpected hope, deeper friendship, all woven together, and as the Hymn to the Eternal Flame reminds me, woven into Fire.  All of us, all our work, all we are, everything is always in the process of being purified, consumed, transformed–transubstantiated–in God’s love which is like fire.  I have seen that as loss and destruction.  Today, it seems to me that it allows us to be energy set free, made available for the work of love and grace.  So it is that I am set free, headed back to my everyday life with all its promise of resurrection.

At the mouth of Truckee River

At the mouth of Truckee River

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Further north on Lake Tahoe

Seconds After the Sun Climbed Out from Behind the Sierras

Seconds After the Sun Climbed Out from Behind the Sierras

The Most Incredible Light Bathed Everything

The Most Incredible Light Bathed Everything

So It Glowed Like Burnished Treasure

So All Creation Glowed Like Burnished Gold and Flame

 

 

Lonely Sometimes But Not Alone

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“I am still hopelessly deaf to the eloquent sounds of your silence”, Karl Rahner, SJ

As I got started making this thirty day retreat by myself, in something more closely resembling a hermitage than a retreat center, I was aware that I would not have the rhythms of silent community that  were a blessing in the Jesuit retreat centers where I’ve been in the past. I ‘gave myself permission’ to stay connected to my larger community through pictures here on this blog.  Early, early this morning, when it seemed like the rest of the world was all asleep, I realized I have moved further into the grace of this time and I can let go.  There are moments of loneliness, of course, but I am not alone.  So I will not be posting again for the days I have left here. Look out for me around the 31st.

 

 

Rubicon Trail

Trail Map

Trail Map

Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay

South End of Rubicon Trail

South End of Rubicon Trail

Mistletoe?

Mistletoe?

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The Colors Were Really This Beautiful

Contemplation of the Calling of the First Apostles According to Luke

Contemplation of the Calling of the First Apostles According to Luke

Pretty Arduous Hiking At Times

Pretty Arduous Hiking At Times

Afternoon Light at Tahoe

Afternoon Light at Tahoe

Close to Journey's End

Close to Journey’s End: North End of Rubicon Trail

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