My father was in the hospital…
he’d been there at least two weeks. His kidneys were failing, and his heart was struggling. He’d been battling Diabetes for about two years, and at 90 his strong body was finally getting weak. But still, his mind was even stronger, and he kept his acuity and intelligence – and his quick wit. As I spoke to my mother on the phone about him one day, she said to me; “He’s going downhill fast, Jenny. His body isn’t going to last long.” I sucked in my breath in concern. But as I did, I heard his unique chuckle in the background before he said loudly;
“That’s just today, tomorrow is another story!”
He was aware at that point he had very little time left. And yet, he still lived by that same attitude he’d had all his life. Even facing death was not something he allowed to define his attitude about his life. It was his last lesson to me – and his best. There was once a so-called “Summer of Job” I had wherein I lost it all, only to learn to choose to believe in having it rebuilt, to choose to believe in Hope. That was my summer of testing, where many of my deepest questions were asked, including if I truly believed anything I’d been taught as a child – even about Spirit, and God. I wasn’t certain for awhile there if I did.
Here’s the key – I’m still not certain about any of it. Who among us can be? After all, few have personally died and come back, so most of us do not have that empirical and individual “proof” we each would need in order to truly know for a certain fact on our own what the truth is. And we do not have the tools needed (mainly that remaining large percentage of our brains we do not use right now, since most of us use only a small percentage of this powerful instrument) to truly understand the cosmos and creation and spirituality and the concept of God. God – that which is represented by the name “God” – the “I Am”, the One – is not something any of us can actually define. How do finite minds comprehend the infinite? The answer is, we cannot, we do not yet have the capability.
But we will.
And therein, for me, lay the answer. I cannot say for certain I truly know anything on this earth, much less everything – there isn’t one thing I can be sure of completely, when you really get down to the metaphysics of it. Even something as simple as mathematics can be twisted in so many ways by scientists and mathematicians that a friend of mine who happens to be a great scientist and physicist has told me they are able to “prove” that one plus on does not necessarily equal two.
And as for trusting even myself, I know myself well enough to know that I, like every human on this planet, change from moment to moment, breath to breath, and all I can do is try to make that change head in a positive direction. Physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually we are literally in a constant state of change and flux in every particle and atom of our bodies, our world, our universe, our lives. This is perhaps the only “certain” thing I can say “I know.” That nothing is truly known, and everything is uncertain.
But I do believe there is something beyond this physical realm of being, of that I am clear, because of my own personal experiences with it. And in these experiences I’ve been shown that in this spiritual reality, for lack of a better term, our minds, our thoughts, our very being is unlimited – and so I believe that one day, I will understand, I will comprehend everything. It just happens to be the day of my physical death.
At least I’m pretty sure that’s true.
So until that point, I am OK with being able to say, nope, can’t tell you for sure what is reality. Can’t tell you for certain who God is, or what, or how, or even where. The only thing I can tell you for certain is I know nothing for certain. But I do believe that one day I will know. And I am choosing to live as if I am already in that spiritual reality – to live my life now as if I already am unlimited.
In this way I free myself from worrying about today, and do not allow whatever happens within it to define me. After all, I already know I am constantly changing – and that I am ultimately unlimited. So how can any one day or any one event in my life possibly define me for good? Even if that event is one that seems extremely negative, one which affects me profoundly and deeply, one which causes me pain. One that I may allow to define me for a long period of time. It still does not define me forever unless I allow it to do so.
But that’s OK. It’s part of why I’m here on this journey. To learn – and continue learning. I am OK with being where I am, because this is where I am meant to be.
And the reality is, I may not know anything for sure today, but tomorrow may have another revelation for me. It usually does.
And thus while one negative event may have left me feeling defined by it for a long period of time, I can choose to let the emotions of it finally pass through me, and allow myself to change, and redefine myself on a daily basis. And I can decide what that definition is, no matter what the day brings.
I am trying in my limited way to explain how I was able to get through that dark period of my life, and allow the very foundations of myself and my own belief systems to be blown apart. In doing so, they were then rebuilt even stronger than before. I came to realize it takes more faith and strength to admit you don’t know, than to try and pretend you do.
And that’s where I came to find hope, as odd as it sounds. Because I realized it was OK to not understand, to not know, and to admit it. And it was also OK to admit to and claim that which I do understand and feel to the core of my being is Truth.
Such as, there IS a spiritual realm, and we are all a part of it. And that everything in life – EVERYTHING – no matter how terrible today, can be used as a lesson – an opportunity – to help me make better choices and change things for myself tomorrow.
And so this gave me hope. Because I knew the difficulties and troubles of that day, of those times, were only making me stronger (and they did), and that tomorrow would be better. These troubles are just speaking of today, tomorrow will tell another story.
My father lived his life in this way – even as he approached his death.
When my father said those words, he knew he was going to die soon. He said them in response to my mother knowing she was right, and he was heading downhill physically very quickly – and knowing, at the same time, that she was wrong, because he wasn’t ready to die yet, not on that day anyway, and not there in that hospital.
Today I may be about to die, but tomorrow is another story. And so I live right now as if tomorrow will happen.
Or: until the day you actually die, there is always room for change, and therefore there is always room for hope.
As it was, for him, he didn’t die that day, nor the next. There were several times when they thought he wouldn’t make it, but he hung on, because he wanted to go home. Finally at one point when the doctors were discussing yet one more procedure they wanted to do with him, he asked them point blank what the odds were it would fix him completely and make him well again. The obvious answer was, it wouldn’t.
“In that case;” he told them; “I’m going home now.”
At first they objected, saying he was too ill to leave the hospital. They said he wouldn’t last more than a day or two at the most without the machinery to keep him alive. But he insisted, sitting up in his bed and telling them he’d walk out on his own if they wouldn’t help him do it. He knew what was happening, and what would happen once he went home, and they finally understood that he knew and had accepted it. So they let him go.
He gave himself the strength to make it home, where he could look at the trees and mountains outside his windows and be surrounded by his family, not in a hospital surrounded by white walls and strangers. He really hated being in a stark white room with no windows and nothing to look at but a TV and equipment. He didn’t want to die in that kind of environment. So he didn’t.
They told him he’d never make it home, he wasn’t going to leave the hospital. He did. They told him once he got home it would be a matter of a day, maybe two days. It wasn’t.
They told him he wouldn’t be physically capable of leaving the house once there to go visit his beloved church one more time. He did. They told him he’d lose his cognitive ability quickly and not be mentally aware the last days of his life. Instead he was fully aware and making jokes the entire time, up until just hours prior to the final moment he closed his eyes in this life.
We saw what happened to him after each of those decisions – the physical toll it took on his body. We could see that as he sat up and sang his favorite hymns in the church service, he was straight and tall and as strong as he could be – but once he got home his head went down to his chest and his breathing was once again labored and we thought that night might finally be his last. It wasn’t.
His sheer force of will allowed him to do these things, and to remain alert and focused all the way to the every end. His physical body actually had given out weeks before. His spirit was all that was holding it together.
Because he truly believed – today he may be about to die, but tomorrow he was going to go home. Today he may be about to die, but tomorrow he was going to go to church. Today he may be about to die, but tomorrow he was going to see his grandchildren and great grandchildren one more time, and be able to talk to them and smile with them and laugh as they played around his feet.
When finally he’d done all he’d wanted to do, he let go – and that is when he said;
“Today I am alive, but tomorrow I am going to die. And that is well with my soul.”
Because even then he believed the story he’d have tomorrow was going to be a better one than he had today. After all, he knew he was about to go join the God whom he’d loved and worshiped his entire life. This was not a bad ending for him, but a new beginning.
Today I am going to die, but tomorrow is truly another story entirely. My father knew the secret of this.
TOMORROW CAN TRANSFORM YOU.
Excerpted from “Things My Father Never Knew He Taught Me: Seven Lessons From a Life” by Jeanette Elaine DuBois, available on Amazon and Kindle, June 2019
Dedicated to the dads of all of us here at insidewink.com
Thank you each for the lessons of your lives.
Jeanette Elaine Dubois
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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