I don’t remember much of the first few hours or days following the stroke, but I do have one memory I keep reviewing. It is a memory that involves my dad and a conversation we had during that time.
My dad actually passed away almost exactly ten years ago. I am not sure I have ever written publicly about my dad, as it is one of those topics that is extremely personal and like most father-son relationships, extremely complex. In spite, or maybe because of the fact we are so similar in so many ways, we never really understood or got on well with each other. But, in the last two years or so of his life, we finally found some common ground and had real conversations. Until several hours before his death, I never saw my dad during the time after we finally let down our guards, let go of the past and began seeing each other as people. We were having a good relationship, but it was via the phone. I was in Amsterdam and he was in Arizona. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe being on the phone forced us to actually talk instead of sitting silent in a room as we had done so many times.
After my dad passed away, I would have very strong feelings that he was near me. It would be so strong, that I could point to where he was and at times I also felt he was with my grandmother and granddad, his parents. Given the complexity of our history and relationship, I found it so odd that I would feel him so close. In many ways, it has changed my relationship with him in a way I am not yet sure how to describe. About a year after his death, I remember having a sort of conversation with him in my head, as many people do with people who have passed on, and I remember thinking that my life was great, going in a good direction and I was happy. That was the last time I felt his presence.
Sometime in the first hours or days in the hospital, he was there. In spirit or in my head as a dream, I can’t tell you and I guess it all depends on what you believe. But we spoke and he told me I had a choice to make. Did I want to live or die? He said it was up to me. I remember my answer. I said “I don’t know.” I asked him what he thought. I asked if things would be better if I were where he was. He didn’t answer that question. He told me there was a lot left for me to do, but I had to decide.
I don’t remember making the decision, but I am here. Real or imagined, it is a scene that I often play in my mind. I understand the “I don’t know” answer. The past few years have been some of the most difficult of my life. As I have already blogged, I lost everything I worked for, everything I ever thought I wanted. Now, here I am in Tanzania, all but unemployed, living in Ulco’s house and more unsure about what the future holds than ever before. I remember thinking that if I chose to die, I could put all the frustrations and painful experiences in the past. I was given the choice. It was entirely up to me, and in that moment, I didn’t know, I didn’t think about what anyone else would think or feel. The choice was mine and mine alone, but I kept hearing my dad say that there is still so much left for me to do.
I believe I am here because I made the choice to live, to not give up, and as I have also learned and blogged about, living is more than just not being dead. It means to embrace life and all that comes with it. So now I find myself once again re-evaluating my life and its contents, trying to figure out what to do. I don’t believe I have gone through this and the rest of the trials of my life for no reason. And while I really do not believe everything happens for the best, I do believe there is a lesson in everything. Now I just need to find out what that lesson is and I am both scared and excited.