Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Dad's Heart and Other Miracles (Laura)

I like to believe that things have a way of working out.

One of my deepest fears, for as long as I can remember, has been the thought of my childhood family separating. A strange worry perhaps, considering I have so far been fortunate enough not to have dealt with bi-continental relationships or divorce, death, and other such tragedies within this family. Nonetheless, the fear has been there. Even as a child, when my family and I used to visit out-of-state relatives, I would wonder why people worked and saved so they could take time off from working and saving to go home and be with their families. Why not just stay there?

I understand now there are many reasons people leave those they love, and for a while during adulthood, I thought of my visits to my parents and siblings as stolen trips to heaven. These are people I love very much who are not a part of the daily life I have made for myself, simply because of distance. And I thought they never could be. I had made that choice to part with them. The goodbyes truly do get harder every time, and I find the challenge, at times, nearly breaking me and my resolve to lead my life where I have chosen to. I pray about it, and ask myself daily an indulgent question: "Why can't I have both?"--the life I love and the people I love. Distance doesn't bother some people to the point that it challenges the decisions they've made to "leave home," but it's challenged mine.

All of this is to say that I often feel stuck between two things I want with all of my heart. I don't always know which to choose, or if I've made the right decision. I spend precious energy trapped in this circle. Then sometimes, things happen to remind me of one very important truth: I am not in control. And one's world can change in an instant.

This past April, I planned to visit my family and surprise my brother for his 30th birthday. In the few days leading up to the trip, three things happened. One, my dad learned he would need a bypass surgery to work around a 100-percent blockage in the main artery to his heart and two other 90-percent blockages. My daddy, always so strong, always cutting and scraping himself at work and fixing the house and never sitting still, would have his chest opened, and someone--some amazing person--would work in there and somehow not hurt him, in an effort to prolong his life. In the past, my dad has had knee, shoulder, hernia, and spinal surgeries--some of these multiple times--but nothing like this.

The other two things that happened were that my mom and sister, both of whom had worked with their companies for over nine years, learned they would lose their jobs due to workforce reduction. My dad, who was between contract positions, received a job offer the day of his surgery. A job he, of course, couldn't take due to his recovery.

Just like that, everything was up in the air.

All led to good news, thankfully: My dad's surgery went well, and he is getting through his recovery. There are some issues as a result of the surgery that may go away in time, and at least now, he has a working heart. If he hadn't been between jobs, if he hadn't gone to the doctor, if his heart hadn't been strong enough...If, if, if. Somehow so many things came together, and it all worked out.

I got to see my family during a time when we all really needed each other. My sister moved in with my parents to take care of my dad, so my mom could go back to work in the meantime. (My mom's job wasn't being eliminated until June.) Upon her return to work, my mom learned she had an opportunity for a job in another department with her company until she can retire with her pension within the next year. Her new job will have less stress involved--a big plus. Also, my dad's surgery and recovery kept my sister busy during an extremely difficult transition in her life. For the first time, my sister was considering jobs in Minnesota. I got fluffy dreams in my eyes of her moving here, my parents coming after to retire here, and the rest of the family following. I knew it was a dream, but for the first time, it was possible. And I realized how anything is possible because nothing is really stable. It's scary, and it's also good. It felt good to think about it that way for the first time. That anything can happen. We're the ones who keep ourselves in stagnant routine--at least we try to--until we're stuck and can't see the way out.

As it turned out, my sister got a wonderful job opportunity within a month, near my parents' home. Her new job will begin June 20, exactly eight weeks after my dad's surgery--his main recovery time. She will need to move to a new apartment, but it will be closer to my parents and still somewhat close to my brother's family.

So, thankfully, things didn't change for the worse for my family this April. In fact, they changed for the better. I'd lost faith in recent years that my family would come to Minnesota--a place they once wanted to return to--but for a few weeks, there was a beautiful opening where it might have happened. It could again, if it's right, and I will keep praying. We may separate further before we are together again, but we will be together someday. I am human and will probably still worry about my family, but I hope I will not lose faith again, knowing God is taking care of them. No wonder things have a way of working out. In the meantime, I feel pretty lucky to have my family just as they are.

I'm also lucky to have the life I do. I definitely needed the reminder that, though I have free will to make decisions, I am not in control. And I'm learning that I don't have to take pieces of my own heart away from people I love in order to grow; it will just get bigger. I want to do my best to let my heart guide me through life, let go of my fears, and loosen my worries and false attempts to control things I can't. Only then can I truly open myself to those scary and wonderful opportunities that fill a life with love and make it beautiful and whole. That is a decision I can make.

What blessings have come into your life that first appeared bad? Has anything that seemed hopeless worked itself out, despite the odds?

Thanks for reading!


  1. Thanks for this timely encouragement, Laura! I am the oldest of 5 and we have lots of family stuff this summer that is sort of up in the air. . . a perfect day for me to read your reminder. Thank you!

    1. I’m glad you could find it encouraging, Erin! I sure hope everything goes well with your family.

  2. This was such a beautiful, thought-provoking post, Laura! I can relate with the challenges you face living far away from family. I love the home and the life I've made with my husband, but it's hard to miss so much and to go so long without seeing our parents and siblings. And I have a story I always think back to when I feel like everything is changing for the worse because it illustrates what you're talking about so well. When I was in law school I took a summer job where I had to promise to also work part-time during the following school year. So I scheduled my classes accordingly and had a great experience working there, except that business got slow in the fall and they laid me off. I was so upset, because I had been counting on the extra income and had based my entire class schedule around having time to work. The next day, I checked the job postings at the law school and saw that a foreign professor was looking for someone with a background in economics to help him edit his papers along with doing some writing. Since my college majors were English and economics, it sounded perfect for me so I applied and got the job within the week. I came out of it feeling grateful but a little embarrassed that I had panicked so quickly when such an ideal solution was just on the horizon.

    1. That is a great example, Laurie! I’m glad the other job worked out like it did, and of course you wouldn’t have been able to take it if the first one hadn’t ended, plus you wouldn't have been looking for a job. Funny how things work. I love stories like these. Thanks! :) (I would have panicked right away too, by the way, ha.)


Please note that your comment hasn't gone through unless you see the notice: "Your comment will be visible after approval." We apologize for any difficulties posting comments or delays in moderation.