The Hermit Poet

March 18, 2007

What We Can Do

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:39 pm

It’s been a rough week for my family. Last Monday, my father was air-lifted to Vancouver General Hospital from Penticton General Hospital where he had been been hospitalized since October with an undiagnosed neurological disease. This past Friday, the head of neurology finally provided a diagnosis of advanced ALS after eliminating the last remaining possibilities. Prognosis: 6 months. The possibility of ALS had been discussed earlier, and although we had prepared ourselves for it, we had naturally been hoping for something else. At one point, there was a glimmer of hope when abnormalities showed up in some of the tests. But now it’s pretty clear-cut. And it’s rough. And horrible. And some nights overwhelming. And yet, we are also grounded in part by strong faith in an after-life where family remains close and by a gratitude that this year we have been able to spend so much time together.

My sister and her husband live only a few hours away, my father’s brother and one of his sisters both live nearby, and I live close as well. This past year, by coincidence or by divine providence, my family has all moved into the area — it has been a great blessing to all of us, especially to my father. In light of such hard news, we’re staying positive but realistic. It hurts, but we have decided to make these good days while we can spend them together. We try to laugh and joke, recall the things we did and the good times we had.

Tonight, I felt I should write a good friend who is also experiencing great pain at the loss of one of her closest friends and part of her way of life. Tonight, I’m writing — maybe for me, but hopefully also for others out there who are hurting. To let you and me know that as rough and horrible as this time is for both us right now — there is hope for a better tomorrow — perhaps different than we want, even without someone we love, but somehow we continue and we find joy after the dark road we are treading. Perhaps also to say, even those who leave us are not too far from us.

I was thinking how much I miss hearing my father’s voice — he hasn’t been able to speak normally in months, lately his communication has descended into almost incomprehensible mumbling and he has to use an alphabet card to spell out words for us. I haven’t heard his voice — and yet I hear it all the time — I have his voice. My voice reminds so many people of my father’s voice. When we were both home people regularly confused us for each other when we answered. Now, his voice is what I’ll take with me wherever I go. My father is my echo — or perhaps, sometimes I am his. We are different people, but very good friends and it is hard to say good-bye to such a friend.

I do not look forward to what lies next – but I will carry on. I will do, like you, what writers do. I will write. I will remember. I let the page tell the story of my love for my friend who is my father. Like it always has.

Tonight, I am writing because writing is a prayer. Because the poem is both evocation and invocation. Because there is a world here in among the letters which knows who I am and how I am struggling and yet moving forward. Tonight I am writing because there is still room for laughter and joy, despite darkness and sorrow. Tonight, I am writing because it is the only way I know how.

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