Samir M. A. Yassin 1937 -2012
I was supposed write a post to tell you about journeying to Iowa and Illinois, and describe the many classes I would be teaching. But today would not be the day for such a post. Instead, this will be one of the hardest posts I've ever had to write, with the caveat that I will never complain about writer's block again...
You might remember, a time or two ago, the story focusing on WHY I do the things I do, and why you should follow your own dreams, too, if at all possible. I had wanted to scribe another post about it, one of the brevity of life, as demonstrated by the shocking death of my cousin's husband dying suddenly, two weeks ago. But I declined to over saturate my point and, as I was falling behind on writing (as mentioned yesterday), I nixed the post.
Had I been given the chance, then, I would have expounded the details: he had literally been at our house five hours earlier, fit as a horse, with no signs of a previous illness. And then, and then...his heart tore--in a literal, shocking fashion, sending him to bed, then the hospital, before anyone realized how horrible the situation was. A young man was he, fifty-seven. With three sons not yet twenty five. I might've gone onto say that I couldn't know how his family feels, but that it could happen to any of us, and time is our only precious commodity....
Apparently, even these humbly offered statements had tempted the Fates...because as of today, I CAN say I know how it feels....
Fifteen days after I lost a cousin, my father, The Bear King, died at 11:45 last night.
Whilst you and I both catch our breaths, I should probably say that while this was not a surprise, it still shocks the heart and mind...for this man was so much larger than life that I dare say there were times I was sure he would outlive me, despite a lifetime of hardships and health issues....
If you think I am inking this for pity, then pity us not--this is the story, like so much journeying here, about the journey of a person who STILL kept at a dream. Instead of dissolving in pity, that same savvy and determination set him forward to CONTINUING his doctoring career well into his sixties. He resolved to learn how to use his shaky hands to hold items, type on the computer (slowly) and maneuver much of his life. As a pathologist, he used his training and eyes to see under microscopes and type up reports. With my mother's help, he managed to create a full scale lab business (she processed lab slides and did paperwork)...it became quite a thriving business and even helped put my sister and I partially through college.
It was all so normal-seeming, so much so that I distinctly remember being a wee child who, upon meeting the father of another friend, for the first time ever, thinking it was odd that the father was STANDING. Weren't all Daddies meant to be in a wheelchair?
Daddy and Baby Zan
It wasn't all roses, of course: there was a residual bitterness somewhere in him, which came out in a never-ending drive towards perfection in his children. I sense that he felt that if we were EXCELLENT in everything we did, nothing could touch us...we could not fail and nothing could harm us. An extremely intelligent man (besides the PhD in medicine, he spoke three languages and had an insatiable thirst for knowledge) he drove us hard on our studies and extolled difficult consequences for anything he deemed flawed. He needn't have gone so far--his idealism, high ethics, and just his everyday triumphs despite his difficulties, were inspiration enough. There was little he couldn't do...so how could we, his blessedly ambulatory and healthy girls, NOT succeed at anything we dared to? Suddenly, something as crazy as beekeeping, writing, performing arts, riding around the country via horse and wagon...seem less outlandish or risky, if it was truly something one set their mind on.
As he aged, though, his health became more and more of a vice to him. Within the last decade or so, we had a name to this monster illness: peripheral neuropathy, but we still had no sure clue as to what caused it. It would be no matter, though, as there was no cure, and it slowly gnarled his hands, so he couldn't work, and caused him to start losing his memory. After he retired, he eventually lost so much leg and body strength that he was bed ridden, but lovingly cared for by my mother. Scarier moments were when he began getting infections...sepsis that affected his blood, drove up a fever, and sent him to the hospital. But, saber-toothed in strength, spirit, or pure stubborness, he always hurdled through it with no problems.
In the last two months that I had been at home with them for the Alabama Wagon train project...he seemed rambunctious as ever, but my cousin's death seemed to take the wind from his sails, as it did all of us. He began muttering heartbreaking babbling: "he was far too young, I should have died instead." Somehow, I think he meant it. Some part of him felt "useless," since he spent much of the day not doing much but watching television, an activity hard-chewed for a man of his vigor and intelligence.
On Friday, he began complaining, calling my mother over and over again, which he did when he wasn't well. By Saturday, he was shrieking and shaking. Whisked by ambulance, he eventually seemed to stabilize out after initial antibiotics. By Sunday, the doctor said some part of his lung collapsed, that there was water on it, and that it could be cleared by drug therapy. We breathed a sigh of relief--
But then, no, we were wrong. A phone call at 3:30am from the hospital sent my mother and I rushing to him. His lung capacity had decreased by a full fourth. And it was confirmed both lungs were collapsed--not by water stress but--because the peripheral neuropathy had seized the lungs so they could no longer breathe on his own, and he was unconscious from his weakened lung state. We sat in stunned silence in his hospital room when we realized that he was absolutely dying, he would not be wily enough to escape the jaws the Fates had meted out to him for all of these years. Decades of suffering, frustration, triumphs...they lay here, at that moment.
I've known many people who have died, but it was such a far away experience--tidily buffered by news that traveled through friends or family. Never had I ushered someone into death--and I didn't think I would find the armor for it. How do you tell someone hooked up to ventilators every. single. thing. that they have ever done, and meant to you? All I could do was cry, watch my mother cry, along with my cousin--my father's niece, the one who had lost the husband two weeks ago, who bravely came to escort another poor soul past its Earthly journey. How could she not? Daddy had basically helped raise HER, as a girl,when her own father died. That was my papa, he changed people's lives with his kindness, determination, and life example.
We lay shattered, a wet heap of tears, fragments of memories turning on multi-faceted edges, each one more heartbreaking than the next. I found myself hugging this big unconscious hulk of a man, putting my head on his shoulders as if I were five year old, even surprising myself by asking my mother if we could somehow save him, a child's fantasy. At the end of the day, after nearly four decades of thinking I had it all together, I was reduced to Daddy's Little Girl.
There were several instances where he did finally open his eyes--brief moments where we told him all we could say for his journey to the other side. But once my sister arrived from her out-of-state job and said her goodbyes, we allowed the ventilators off. He had fought for three days, he was not getting better. The many passing doctors gave us no good chances for him to be off of machines. My mother wanted no continuation of his suffering.
How many kisses can you give a Goliath who has taught you everything you know? We told him that our two deceased family dogs would guide and play with him and that he'd see family members he missed. We told him we loved him and we knew he loved us, and that it was alright to go.
Life is short, my friends, and much too soon there is no time for whatever preciousness you want out of this beautiful gift.
Forgive what you can, and hope people can forgive you.
Do whatever you can, as much as you can, towards what big and small dreams you may have.
The Gems of Life: Human and Animal friends and family.
Even if it doesn't look exactly as you wish, be determined that each day holds some happiness.
Goodnight, Sweet Prince. We already miss you.
UPDATE. -- since daddy taught me to keep my word, and because I believe highly in the project--I WILL STILL BE GOING TO IOWA and ILLINOIS to TEACH BEEKEEPING! More on that, tomorrow