The music increased in intensity as we began to approach the place where I start to feel my body-gripping, knuckles whitening.
It is not the first time I have been here, so I know what’s coming.
I squeeze my hands harder, preparing to close my eyes shut.
I fight the voices, “Let Go! Open your eyes! Trust!”
“Come on this is ridiculous! You can open your eyes!”
The wheels are clicking below, then I feel the dread begin to surface in my throat and stomach of the force that launches over the top of the rails. Being thrown for a loop, the feeling can be the same.
“Open Your Eyes! Come on, you can let go” keeps repeating in my head.
Holding my breath.
“So what if I let go?”
This little dialogue continues in my head for just a few minutes.
I feel the tension rising, and I fight the overwhelming fear. But I do not want to miss this moment to open my eyes.
This time I refused to hold on to my silly little fear. How many times before did I brace myself?
I approached the crest of the ride and inhaled deeply.
I released the pressure forming in my lungs. I was holding my breath.
I opened my eyes that were squeezed shut. I let the air out slowly and felt a nudge in my heart, “it’s time to let go.”
As I came to the peak of the ride in this magical place- a place my dad loved so much, I opened my eyes to see what was beneath me. I quickly scanned the happiest place below to bear witness to this wonderous bird’s-eye view.
It was breathtaking to see all of “kingdom come” and its glory below from this perspective. It’s amazing how, when viewing things from a new perspective, the whole picture begins to change.
I released my mighty grip on the bar that already kept us safely in place. I let go and threw my arms up with hands wide open and facing towards the sky.
Letting go with eyes wide open, and hands facing up with trust. There was no fear, but only pure joy splashed across my face.
It became clear to me I was being sent some messages from above about letting go. During that week, I heard “let go,” in a homily in mass, from a podcast I listened to, and during a conversation with a beloved friend. I was trying to piece together the meaning of these messages to let go and trust. Was this about the uncertainty headed our way, or was this something else?
It started to become apparent the direction the arrows were pointing about letting go and trust.
On the day, my dad’s first birthday in heaven, I was releasing my words, in a piece called “Writing is my Cake,” to the world in this blog space.
I did so with a little bit of fear. Fear of the world knowing my heart (though if you know me, I hardly ever hide it). I had a concern that in my desire to honor and heal places in my family and in my heart, it could potentially cause unnecessary hurt – there has already been far too many years of wounds and hurt.
I held in my mind all of my years of learning and preparing for this writing place with the help of writing mentors and fellow writers. A few things became crystal clear. The first is my writing is not going to be for everyone but is going to be for someone. The second point is some things make us most afraid – the kind of shake in your boots afraid. Those things are often the thing we are meant to do most – sometimes fear and excitement come from the same emotional place. In spite of my fears, all things pointed to the face that it was time to write.
Yet, I still needed affirmation that I was doing the right thing in honoring this call to share the words being placed on my heart.
Before I put my heart out to the world, I knew I could not do so without the support of my sister. Her blessing mattered most. We grew up playing Barbies, sharing bedrooms, figuring out life, and riding roller coasters together. We got lost in time, and in each of our own struggles and brokenness, we both were always trying to come up for air. It was clear we lived in a separate time and space.
For years we danced around it all each trying to find our happy place.
On the same day, I launched my writing space with an undeniable and unconditional blessing and love from my sister, we were once again finding ourselves boarding the so-called-roller coaster of life.
She called to let me know she was on her way to the hospital – a brutal flashback of the days surrounding my dad’s first visit to the hospital last year. Here’s life throwing us for a loop.
Here we go again, hands gripping the wheel tight. Maybe in the past, the emergency call may not have come to me first as our days together were often world’s apart. Knowing this, it was not lost on me that, without our dad, she needed me.
She spent the day being monitored and tested with her husband by her side. It was a day of uncertainty and a fresh reminder of the hours and the worn path to that ER and hospital where my dad spent so many hours. After several hours of testing and monitoring, I came to be with her to bring food (my never-ending heart for hospitality) to her husband, who was becoming delirious with hunger and thirst.
As a precaution at best, my sister was moved from the ER to a room for an overnight stay. Though it began to become apparent, the health threat was becoming less and less. We passed the time with many laughs and tearful reminiscing about life.
My brother-in-law and I were having fun at my sister’s expense as we so often did when together during the more happy years; he and I were friends long before they met. We recalled so many beautiful and hilarious memories that got buried in the dirt and hurt and were blurred by the roller coaster of life.
I could not help but think about the roller coaster of life we had in this hospital. It was here that we watched our dad’s life begin to slip away. It was becoming apparent it was going to be in the same hospital that caused us so much grief that healing and rebirth of sisterhood were taking place. There is often so much mystery in the way God weaves moments like this together.
As the transport tech moved her in the hospital bed through halls, up and down the ramp, it felt a bit like a roller coaster itself.
In our playfulness, my brother-in-law and I simultaneously shouted ahead to the tech as he approached the door, “Let Go!”
As the bed approached the automatic doors, my mind slipped back to the opening and closing of doors. It took me back to how often we walked these halls last year as my dad fought so hard through many intense surgeries. It took me back to two days before his heart attack when my oldest daughter was having her own major surgery. It took me back my other daughter’s surgery when she traumatically broke her jaw two years before, and the never-ending hours I spent in the halls of hospitals the past 10 years.
I felt the grief and anxiety rising in my neck of all the time spent in hospital spaces; the moment was trying to take hold of my heart. I did not want to let it-it was time to let it go.
I tried to keep my eyes wide open and see this from a new place. It was time to move forward, no time to look back. I was here for my sister, no one or nothing else. I shook my head and released my breath, I decide its time to let it all go. Let it all go and trust.
She and I worked too hard this past year for this to be about anything else.
I prayed quietly to myself, “Please keep her well, we’ve already been through so much…what a gift this time was for us today.” I could not bear history repeating itself with my sister lying in this place. The grief of loss and the absence of people in my life was already more than enough.
Today marks the day my dad has left this Earth. It is difficult to put into words how grief feels at times. It was a bumpy ride to watch a loved one fight so hard and keep losing time. Of course, the outcome was not what we had hoped -this was definitely a roller coaster ride where we held on tight and just did not want to let go.
It has been a tough ride to adjust to a life without him here. For our dad, we know, is in a better place and very much at peace. My sister and I have enough faith to know it’s true. Together we have done our very best to work to honor our dad as the new caretaker to our mom. It’s a whole new place with a unique view – working together for this common goal. Today I am confident, in spite of losing him, it feels we still gained so much.
It is the hope and redemption that can be found in the loss.
Quickly, I was drawn back to the moment when I giggled and yelled ahead to the transport tech, “Let go! Let her go!”
I smiled as she belted out, “Wahhhhhoooo” as if she was on a hospital bed roller coaster on the sloping hallway floor. The tech chuckled at our playfulness.
My brother-in-law and I laughed so much.
With that, I watched my sister’s arms fly into the air with her hands facing up. She was enjoying the short ride down the ramp.
This hospital was a roller coaster for us for those 12 short weeks last year. We could hardly catch our breath most days as we were zooming past one another in separate coaster cars on our different paths trying to hold on tight.
Over time, we come to realize it’s often in the places of deepest pain that we gain so much life and healing if our eyes are wide open to see it. And to feel it, we need to let go.
Today as I write this, it’s easy for me to see the “let go” was less about roller coasters and more about us. It was more about my sister and me, and it was time for us to let go of all the grief, the hurt, and time to rest in redemption and trust.
We’ve been on a crazy ride for so long, holding on so tight and just never able to catch up. Hearts longing for one another to be on the same rails, but somehow our cars were often derailed by something or someone else in life.
While the last place we wanted to spend part of my dad’s birthday was in the hospital where I gave him his last cake, I can’t help but think it was also the very best place for healing to begin.
Thankfully, all things turned out to be much ado about nothing for my sister that day, though I was grateful for the time and the laughs. And most thankful for the lessons that came to light on my dad’s first birthday in heaven. What a gift he gave to us.
As I was so willfully trying to let go on my roller coaster ride back in Disney two weeks before, I couldn’t help but think my sister really wanted to let go of hers as well, but a roller coaster of a different kind.
When she threw up her hands and belted out that “wahoo” I saw a person release the weight of a responsibility of honor she carried for my dad in those halls so many hours and days last year.
A joy returned that had been missing between us for so long. It is so ironic to find its way back to us in the halls of a place that took something dear from us. This same place gave back a chance to let one another know it really is okay to “let go and trust.”
And to circle back to my own roller coaster ride in Disney, the same roller coaster where I really wanted to release my own grip. It was on that ride that I kept reminding myself to let go and trust. I want to keep my eyes open on this journey to see so many lost things from a new place.
My sister and her husband took their own trip to Disney last week. In a full-circle moment, it is not lost on me, the first picture she sent me while on her trip was one of her on the same roller coaster in the same magical place with hands up and eyes wide open and nothing but joy on her face.
Such a beautiful confirmation to know our God has his hand in all of this.
Let go with your hands facing up.
Keep your eyes wide open.
Life can definitely be a roller coaster. But it can still be fun, even in hospitals and the worst of places.
It can still bring good in the broken and hard spaces. Healing can always come. Hospitals are meant for all kinds of healing.
Thankfully on this hospital visit, on this roller coaster ride, it was a different kind of healing – and a very long-awaited one.
“The righteous shall move onward and forward; those with pure hearts shall become stronger and stronger.” – Job 17:9