The Day Jesus Took The Wheel

back view beach clouds dawn

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There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

And that moment happened three weeks ago.

My father taught me everything I needed to know in life. He taught me how to dance, he taught me the importance of self-respect, he taught me how to be kind and compassionate and like many Dads, he taught me how to drive.

My Dad was a car guy, I remember being a young girl and he would sit me on his lap and let me “drive” in parking lots while we waited for my Mom in the store. This was the 80’s so that was normal back then, now not so much! But you get my gist.

When I was of driving age, my father taught me how to drive. Rule number one, always wear your seat belt. Rule number two, keep both hands on the wheel. My Dad was an excellent driver, he had lightning fast reflexes and eyesight like a hawk. He also had an undeniable belief that he owned the road. With my real life superhero by my side I learned how to navigate myself through traffic and never be afraid.

When I passed my driving test and he handed me the keys to the car, I remember my father telling me, “Lisa Mia, it’s not you I’m worried about it’s the other drivers on the road. You must have eyes all over, always drive defensive. Please honey, be careful.”

Years have passed since then and I’ve always considered myself a safe driver. Driving is when I have my alone time and I think. Driving is when I think of my Dad.

Three weeks ago, my entire life changed in the blink of an eye.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

It was a normal Saturday morning, I was on my way to do my normal boring Saturday morning routine, when I realized I forgot my cell phone at home. I was about a block away from my house, so I made the decision to return home to retrieve my cell phone. A decision I will regret for the rest of my life.

I put my blinker on, looked like I always do, and then something happened. I saw all white and instantly I felt my father’s presence – perhaps the strongest since his death three years ago.

For a brief moment I felt strong arms wrap around my body.

I wasn’t afraid because I felt surrounded by pure unconditional love. There are no words to accurately describe the love I felt surrounding me at that exact moment. I didn’t hear tires screeching or feel an impact, I only saw white. And then I realized I smelled smoke and my car was in the middle of a busy road. I saw people gathering on the sidewalk and I felt confused, I started to remember feeling a slight impact, I thought I was rear ended. A woman in a minivan slowed down, rolled down her window and yelled to see if I was okay. I couldn’t understand why so many people were coming to help me. I was only tapped, or so I thought. And then I realized my air bags were open. ALL OF THEM WERE OPEN ON THE DRIVERS SIDE OF THE CAR. And burning, I smelled something burning. Was there a fire? Oh God, please not a fire, I need to get out of here. Then my left eye started to hurt, REALLY HURT, and my vision was blurry. The entire left side of my face began to throb.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I took a deep breath and I quickly looked around.  I wiggled my fingers and toes, I recited the Our Father in my head. I then screamed at the top of my lungs for God and said, “Dear God please give me the strength.” My vision was so blurry, and the smell was awful, the burning, where was it coming from? I realized I needed to open the door and get out of my car. With all my strength I pushed open my car door and made my way across the street.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

“You’re going to be okay, I am right here with you.” is what I heard in my head and I knew it was my father. It felt as if someone was guiding me across the street, helping me. Confused, because I still thought I was rear ended, I made my way across the street and turned to I looked at my car.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I saw my wheel torn off, pieces of my car all over the road, plastic pieces everywhere, a puddle of fluid under my car. My airbags were deployed. I couldn’t believe all of that “stuff” came from my vehicle. The sight of my car made my entire body began to tremble, I could not believe my eyes.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I made my way to a man standing on the side of the road with some other people.  The man offered me his hand and smiled at me. I looked at the Good Samaritan and between tears I said, “How is this possible? I thought I was rear ended, I was going home for my phone. I have to call my husband, I need my husband.” And then I started to cry while I stared at the heap of metal that was once my car in the middle of the road. The Good Samaritan looked at me and smiled, “You’re lucky to be alive, you can use my phone.”  He was so calm and reassuring. I remember trembling so badly that the Good Samaritan had to dial the phone. I remember him smiling at me saying, “You’re safe now, the police are here.” And he left. I’m so thankful that this stranger stopped what he was doing to wait with me for help to arrive.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

As the police began to pull up, I noticed a woman on the other side of the road. She was frantically waiving her arms, screaming for me. She was screaming, “You guys have the Boston Terrier! I’ll go get your husband!” She ran to my house to get my husband. I wish I knew her name, I only know her because I have noticed her walking her dog the weeks leading up to my accident. Now, a few weeks post-accident and I have yet to find that woman to thank her. My husband and I look for this woman daily, we want to thank her for her act of kindness.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

Despite all the chaos that Saturday morning, but I could feel my father’s strong presence. I could feel my father’s protection and love, but I felt something else, something even more powerful. I felt God’s love and protection that morning.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I remember being loaded into the ambulance feeling shaken up but so incredibly thankful and blessed as I watched the mangled wreck that was once my car fade in the distance. I remember closing my eyes and quietly thanking God for being with me that morning and protecting me.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

Life can be messy and chaotic and we never know what tomorrow will bring. But through it all there is a God up there and God is good all the time, His grace and mercy are boundless. He is so willing to forgive, so eager to answer prayer, and so ready to bless us beyond what we deserve or hope for. I cry when I think of what happened to me a few weeks ago, I am forever thankful for all of the blessings bestowed upon me. And someday when God calls me home, I hope to tell Him in person, “Thank you God for being so good to me.” 

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An Open Letter To The Enablers

The article originally appeared on The Huffington Post Blogbfc0e7a8db3f51c6330113095f03e3e8

Dear Enabler:

You know who you are.  You’re that person who truly believes you are “helping” and leading “Bob” back from the waters in which he is drowning.  You pound your fists on your chest and declare yourself “Bob’s” life preserver, because the rest of us are a bunch of “judgmental robots.”  You feel this great sense of empowerment because “Bob” only confides in you, only allows you to advocate for him.  

You are part of the problem.

I wonder if you are capable of realizing that you are causing great distress to “Bob’s” entire family by knowingly withholding valuable, life saving information.  Let’s be totally honest with ourselves, why would “Bob” choose you as an advocate?  “Bob” comes from a family of individuals who have nothing but pure, unconditional love to offer.  A family who has been down this road before, spent sleepless nights worried and thousands of dollars with one goal…to get “Bob” well.

You are an enabler.  And in my book, you are the worst kind of coward on the planet.  You are a narcissist.  You are obstructive.  You are someone who lies for “Bob” and makes excuses for him.  You are destructive.  You are turning blind eye to life altering behavior which is leading “Bob” down a horrific, deadly road.  

I’m sure you believe that your rescuing comes from the depths of your heart. I have seen it; you love to rescue wounded birds.  Many times I have witnessed you trying to “help” someone.  Your actions are actually keeping the addiction alive, even if you honestly believe you’re doing the opposite.  The people who truly love “Bob” do not share your wish to ignore the gigantic red flags. We realize that we can no longer survive with ostrich syndrome.  You see, true unconditional love is honest, even at times when it is uncomfortable and messy.  True unconditional love addresses the ugly little details that you are pretending do not exist.

I have enough experience to know that behaviors such as constantly lending money, rescuing from the non stop epic dramas, and trash talking the people who love “Bob” is only going to make him fall deeper into a harrowing spiral and fuel his fire of fury.  The immediate family (you are an outsider) made the difficult decision to distance ourselves because we do not want to suffer anymore and we do not want “Bob” to suffer anymore.  See, we love “Bob” so much that we are willing to sacrifice our selfish needs. We are willing to risk having “Bob” get “angry” at us just so he gets the help he so desperately needs.

I feel like a fish swimming upstream frantically trying to save the life of someone whom I love and adore. Someone whom I simply cannot imagine life without.  Someone whom in the natural order of life should never, ever die before my parents or me.  And then along came you, out of no place, making a bad situation worse, choosing to chain smoke cigarettes and drink wine rather than behave like a responsible ADULT and take actions on the numerous red flags that were right in front of your face.

YOU ARE AN ENABLER.

You enable poor behavior in your own family, you enable poor behavior in every single person you have tried to “rescue” through the years only to destroy their lives.  You are now enabling someone of major significance in my life, someone who I love and desperately want healthy again.

Your actions are NOT helping anyone most of all “Bob”!  

What you are incapable of realizing, is that responsibility and accountability are NECESSARY factors for all humans.  When a person doesn’t have to be responsible or accountable to anything other than their addiction and/or mental illness, the issue will perpetually deteriorate.

As long as you continue to enable you are part of the problem, and you are obstructing any resolve at all.

So…why am I writing this letter to you?  What do I want from you, because you truly believe that you are helping, right?

Because it’s imperative you start behaving like a responsible ADULT.  Until now, every single time you meddle and enable your actions have set off a chain of life altering events for “Bob.”  Your constant need to be accepted and your thirst for gossip is obstructing your vision to recognize horrific red flags.  Your enabling is causing more harm than good.  If someone has cancer you take them for appropriate treatments and you communicate with loved ones.  If someone has a heart attack, you call 911 and communicate with loved ones.

So why is this situation any different?

Your actions disappoint me, because, you cannot shout “family first” while turning a blind eye to red flags enabling “Bob’s” deadly behavior.  By now you should have stepped up to the plate, acted like a responsible ADULT and taken the necessary steps to save the life of a person whom I absolutely adore.  And if you are truly unable to realize this dear enabler than you too require medical attention immediately.  So please stop meddling and enabling.  I am fighting to save the life of someone I love, someone I hold near and dear to my heart.  I want nothing in return from “Bob.” I only want “Bob” to live a long, happy, healthy life.

I will continue fight to save his life because I refuse to sit back and let him die.  I would rather have this beautiful person with so much potential in his life angry at me for speaking the truth than turning a blind eye allowing “Bob” to play Russian roulette with his life.   

I will pray for you, I will pray that you are able to understand this letter is not an attack on you, but an attempt to save a young, beautiful life. I will pray that your narcissist enabling ways permit you to truly comprehend that you are causing more harm than good.  I will pray that if you show “Bob” my letter this time, you will have the common decency and class to explain to “Bob” how much his real family loves him and only wants him well.

Signed,

A Desperate Family Member

 

The Grief Diet with a side of Anxiety

 

After watching my father suffer endlessly, I thought I was prepared for his death.  I loved my father so much that I bravely told him he could go, we would take care of mom and carry him in our hearts.  Well I mumbled this between enough tears to fill the ocean, but I did my best to comfort the man who comforted me my entire life.  Cancer robbed my Dad of eating, playing golf, enjoying his golden years and now he was unable to get out of bed, use the bathroom and shower himself. Cancer was now taking his dignity and it was terrifying.  The little every day tasks that we all take for granted were now just a faded memory for my father.  I watched my real life super hero fight with everything he had and I knew he was tired.  I tried to prepare myself mentally for my Dad’s passing.  I thought I was ready.

As I watched my father take his last breath I could feel my heart breaking in a million pieces.  As I watched my sister run her fingers over my father’s eyes and close them I could feel a piece of my heart leaving with my father. As I watched my sister remove his IV and other gadgets the nurses put on him I began to realize my not so baby sister was brave beyond her years.  I watched my sister the RN turn into Florence Nightingale as both of my feet were firmly cemented in the ground.  I could not move or speak, I just watched completely frozen.

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Throughout the past few years I made so many bargains with God.  Bargains like, God if you let my Dad have one more meal I will do X.  Or hello God if you let my Dad have one more drink I will do Y.  I became so desperate that I was willing to shave time off from my life or auction off my organs just to watch my father enjoy a lousy glass of water.  Did God forget?  Was he listening?  My Dad died unable to eat or drink.  It was a cruel death and now food became the symbol of my father’s struggle.

The first few days after my Dad passed everything was a complete blur.  Everyone wants to feed you, which is nice but I was unable to even look at food. I was losing weight faster than any of those crazy trendy diets that hijack your news feed on Facebook, the pounds were falling off.  Clothes that were snug were now falling off.  Food that I once loved tasted like battery acid.  I ordered my all time favorite dish at my father’s repass luncheon at our all time favorite restaurant and each bite tasted like I was eating hot garbage.  My wine tasted like a big glass of vomit.  I tried talking to our guests and everyone sounded like the Charlie Brown teacher, the room became hot and I was positive I was going to pass out.  At one point I remember looking for my mother and feeling very panicked.  WHERE was she?  I scanned the room 3 times and my mom was nowhere to be found.  I started running, yes running to the ladies room.  What if she fell and hit her head on the toilet?  She was upset and had some nerve going to the ladies room alone.  I ripped the door to the ladies room wide opened and exclaimed, “Oh good I found you!” Realizing I was acting completely crazy I fake peed and left the restroom with my mom. My new little friend anxiety was slowly making her appearance.  Since my father’s passing I find myself creating the craziest scenarios regarding my mom.  I’m constantly worried that I will lose her or something will happen to her.  I’ve tried telling her she needs a life alert bracelet just in case or maybe I could I could microchip her, but she explained to me she’s too young for that sort of stuff.  I haven’t told her microchips are just for family pets so there’s still hope on that one.

Anxiety has become a frequent visitor.  I’ve learned that tears are never-ending.  You can cry so much that your eyes are literally on fire and your brain feels like it’s going to pop.  And those little suckers can come at the darndest times.  You can be doing something totally normal like grocery shopping , a song will come on and bam you’re crying.  Your heart aches so much you can feel it in your bones.

Grieving sucks the life out of you.  Surround yourself with love and support.  My memories have become my life line often rescuing me from slipping into a black hole of grief.  And sometimes, if I’m really lucky a beautiful fluffy white feather will be thrown into my path and I smile because I know it’s a gift from heaven.

 

Anniversary, Anxiety & Cars

untitled   The 3 month anniversary of my Dad’s death is creeping upon us.  I’ve heard others refer to this as a loved one’s “birthday in heaven”, “graduation” and so on.  Prior to January 17th, the 17th of the month was just any ole’ day.  The 17th of the month was 2 days after payday, January 17th in particular is my beautiful niece’s birthday (she has the greatest guardian angel ever now).  It was a day I looked forward to. But now, I find myself feeling this gnawing anxiety as we approach the 17th of the month.  To me, it’s a reminder that time is ticking and my father is still gone.  It’s a reminder that I can no longer speak to him, I can no longer hear his voice, I can no longer seek his advice.  The anxiety starts on the 15th of the month and by the 17th I feel like I’m drowning.  There are no life vests, there is nothing to help me from the tremendous waves crashing over me.  I feel like Rose on the Titanic, running for Jack.   I run to Jack, my life vest, my collection of photos and the countless voicemails I have saved from my father.  I play one voicemail over and over, “I love you honey” and slowly I can feel myself coming back to life.  A life that is new and has me navigating my way through unchartered waters with a shattered heart.

Countless friends and family have reminded me that his suffering has ended.  And while my rational mind knows that, my suffering has just begun, my heart is shattered in a million pieces.  Don’t get me wrong, watching my larger than life heroic father whither away before my eyes was downright terrifying.  Hugging a man who was once overweight from too much pasta and cannolis and then feeling all bones was chilling.  Hearing his screams was haunting, as a matter of fact I still wake up in cold sweats panicking that I need to help my father, I am desperately searching for something to comfort him. But there is never anything to help him.  Hearing the man who raised you, who was your real life super hero scream in horrific pain is something that you carry with you for the rest of your life.  So, no one needs to remind me that his pain and suffering is gone, I know that.  A piece of my heart died as I watched my father endure all this pain and suffering.

I watched all of his pain leave his body on January 17th.  I held his hand until his very last breath, his hands that somehow throughout his battle remained big and strong, his hands that still had the comforting grip he had when I was a little girl.  I held that hand as tight as I could so I would never forget the safety and comfort I felt as I held Daddy’s hand.  I held his hand until his soul left his body, I felt his soul leave us as he entered the gates of heaven.  And despite knowing that he’s at peace life has become very somber and lonely for myself and my family.  Our patriarch is gone and we miss him.

There is one constant in my life….I’m blessed.  I know my father knew how much I adored him and I know how much he adored “his girls.” My father’s “girls” were in chronological order: my mother, me and my sister.  He bragged about us so much, I’m pretty sure people got sick of hearing how awesome we were.  But that was my Dad, always with a photo of us in his wallet and ready to tell us how fabulous his girls were.  He was one proud hubby and papa, and eventually grandfather.

This morning as I approached my Volvo, I looked up at the dazzling blue sky,  and smiled.  After a week of rain, it was a spectacular spring morning.  When I turned on my engine I quickly noticed I had a full tank of gas and my tire was reminding me to get air just last night now had air.  At some point between last night and this morning my boyfriend put air in the tire and went for gas.  This was something my father did for me much of my life.  I smiled again, looked up at that dazzling blue sky and mouthed, “I love you Dad.”   Despite the fact that it was my boyfriend who responsible for these acts, something was tugging at my heart reminding me of my Dad.

My Dad was a car guy, it was not uncommon for him to take my car to the car wash, fix little things I never knew needed to be fixed, put wiper fluid in and always make sure I had a full tank of gas. As kids eating in his cars was a forbidden act.  This was something you never questioned nor challenged.  It just was.  Right up until my father’s health deteriorated I thought wiper fluid was an endless amount of stuff in your car.  Refill wiper fluid?  What does that mean?  Car wash?  What was that?  My car was just always clean!  Right?  Wrong, even when I was no longer living with my parents my father always managed to keep an eye on my car.  When I finally realized that it was my Dad and not some cute little car fairy doing all these wonderful things and I asked him why he smiled and simply said, “because you’re my baby and I will always love you”  And that was that, right until he could no longer drive because he was house bound he would always check my car.

Just 2 days before my father passed we were discussing my current car lease ending and the kind of car I should get.  When my boyfriend told him the Audi convertible, as soon as my boyfriend left the room to use the bathroom, my father grabbed my hand and whispered, “Do you even know how to drive a convertible? Be careful! Can you afford an Audi?”  That was my Dad always worrying about his girls.  So you see, when I sat in my car to find a full tank of gas and my tire with air I smiled, a tear ran down my cheek and I realized that perhaps my Dad is still watching out for me.

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