Cathy, December, 6, 2016, around two hours before her father’s funeral.
I’m starting 2017 with the Weekly Photo Challenge “Resilient.”
There are two parts to this blog. The first part is “Alone.” The second part is “Together.”
It’s a pertinent topic. December 2016 was, to say the least, a challenging month.
On December 5th at 10:21pm I received a call from my sister that my dad was in the hospital, and I needed to get there “now.”
Even with my dad’s recent health challenges and his age, this was unexpected.
My sister also let me know that Dad may be gone by the time I arrived.
Well, I’m in Texas, and everyone else is in Southern California.
My husband searched for my flight. I packed, took care of some critical work-related items, and, talked with my husband about the coming weeks. He and our daughter stayed behind while I went to California.
Once all that was done I sat quietly with two large binders of sheet music.
After midnight on December 6th I began planning what I would sing at my father’s funeral.
Knowing Dad, I already knew most of what should be sung. There were a few songs where I’d offer some options to my mom and family, so I just packed a variety of music just to be prepared.
There was no sleep that night. I laid down around 1:30am and tried to rest. At 3:30 I was up and then shortly out the door to the airport.
I arrived in Southern California at 9:30am on December 6th. Given the time difference, around 13 hours after my family called.
As it turned out, my dad passed away in the early morning hours of December 6th before I arrived.
The photo above is of me, a couple of hours before my dad’s funeral. It was one week after he passed away. I bought the entire outfit, dress, boots and all the day before. While packing, my husband and I figured I just had to get out the door. I’d have to buy or borrow everything else; and I did.
The reason I chose this photo for the challenge is, at this point, with jet lag, a time change, and, all the personal and familial emotions that occur under the circumstances I was operating on very little sleep.
In this photo, I see myself and note the weariness.
I also see something else.
I see resiliency.
I was about to sing and play music for my father, my mother, my family, and everyone else.
Given the fatigue, there was only one way for that to happen.
I’ll fast forward a few hours, then take a step back to explain.
There were a number of lovely, heartfelt complements after the funeral.
The most common question was, “How did you do that? …it must have been difficult.”
It was, but that’s not the point.
It takes practice, i. e. I’d been singing at various services for quite some time now.
Believe it or not, it also takes vulnerability.
The best way I can explain it is, you have to be willing to dive off a cliff with everyone watching. You’re fully exposed so that everyone sees all of you. You’re all in, and there’s no turning back. If you’re not all in, then all who hear you will know that. You focus deeply on what you need to accomplish, and, nothing else matters at that very moment.
For just that short time, even though all eyes and ears are on you, it is not about you. It’s about everyone else, and, what they need from you at that moment.
It also means there are times when you have to dig really deep.
I’ve had to move forward at various times of my life when the going was very tough.
It’s part of who I am. In some ways, this was no different. In other ways, I was in completely uncharted territory.
Still, I knew I would step off the cliff and all would be well.
Rehearsing for the upcoming funeral. The guitar once belonged to Cathy’s grandfather, and, was borrowed from her brother.
My parents laid a number of foundations for our family.
This included a foundation of resiliency, even though we weren’t aware of it.
We would face this time as a family. We’ve faced tough times in the past with each of us bringing our talents to the table in order to lighten the load for one another.
The day before I returned to Texas I was enjoying dinner with four of my five siblings, plus spouses, and some cousins.
We laughed, shared memories, and, at times were wistful.
When we left, my brother made a comment about making sure that Mom was okay. Since everything happened so suddenly there were now numerous of unexpected tasks ahead.
I knew my siblings would work together so one person was not overloaded. Since I’m in Texas, and, since my young one has some special needs, I realized they’d keep me posted, but would only call on me if something urgent was needed.
My brother made a comment when we were in the parking lot.
The enormity of what had occurred was settling in.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get through all this.”
It may have been rhetorical but I commented anyway.
“We’ll get through this like we get through everything else. We’ll get through this together.”
August 2015. Cathy, her parents, and her five siblings.
Cathy’s dad, Luis. With much love.