I got to talk to my dad today. It was a simple phone call, just our daily check in. It’s always so good to hear his “Hello my daughter!” answer. But as I hung up I was overcome with gratitude and literal awe that we have him here with us.
Many ask how he is doing. To know my dad is to love him so we are all curious and concerned for him and his health. It’s a tough question to answer. As a family, we are filled with immense gratitude for the second liver transplant he received in August 2015. The donated liver and incredible care he’s been given the past year and a half are miracles and literally the gift of life. But it’s also been a challenging path. I think all his doctors agree that there are so many factors working against him right now, and really only one factor working for him and keeping him here: GRIT. Strength, fortitude, faith, stubbornness, dedication, whatever you want to call it. And I’m so thankful he’s got it. Because that means so many of us continue to be blessed by his presence and example.
My dad has lead a genuine, kind, faithful and devoted life. These past months are no exception, even amidst incredible pain. If you’d followed him around you would have seen him with a smile on his face, washing dishes after family dinner, reading to his grandkids, planning trips with his family, writing stories, always reading and learning, serving others and even playing basketball on a few Friday afternoons. All with a gratitude and optimism unmatched. This past weekend he had to give me a call and tell me that he wouldn’t be able to watch my little baby in the afternoon because he had to ‘run into the emergency room’ but hoped to be home soon so he could help me out. What a guy. Turns out he was admitted to the ICU for not just one, but several very critical risks.
The advice to “enjoy every moment” and “treasure your time” are often given to everyone and especially those families with great health challenges. I’m confident and so thankful as a family we will be able to look back and see that we have. Our family has been blessed with a gift of unity and priorities over the past years. We’re not perfect but nearly each day we connect with each other and find ways to support one another. Most Sundays are filled with family dinners, games and enjoying time together, even if it’s over FaceTime. This past year we dropped everything and went to the Redwoods so Papa Cal could see his grandkids in one of our favorite places. Austin spent his Spring Break in Moab letting my dad relish in his favorite activity hiking. All us adults cruised the Caribbean in January against doctors’ advice and crazy logistics of leaving young families to dine and relax together. Dallin has spent many mornings driving dad to appointments and ‘ball’. The twin baby cousins, whose pregnancies were announced just as he received his second transplant, have been sources of incredible joy and growing measures of this borrowed time we’ve been given. One source of comfort for me has been journaling the small moments my children and I get to spend with him. The list keeps growing, and I pray it will continue to.
I can speak for myself when I say my perspective on this trial has changed. For the most part, I no longer question “why us?” or “why him?”. You don’t have to look far to realize life distributes challenges, heartache and sorrow of all kinds and magnitudes freely. No one can escape it. And in fact, this challenge has brought so many blessings and such perspective to our family that I don’t know if I would wish it away even if I could. But the part that is the hardest, that I wish I could make go away or take on myself, and that is especially trying especially for my dear mom, is the suffering. Watching this strong, incredible man in so much pain and sickness and weakness is overwhelming. I believe in the promise of our Savior Jesus Christ’s ability to take on our pain because I have watched it through my dad. If there is a focus I would ask for prayers and positive energy from those who love him, it is here. That he can find some comfort and relief. And that we can help and support him in the ways he needs most.
My siblings and I have been looking forward to celebrating my dad’s 60th birthday this June for a long time. Sixty isn’t very old (seeming younger to me all the time!) but it’s amazing what he’s done in those years. When his birthday comes and we have him here with us, it will be a true celebration of life. And what a party it will be! If you know my dad and have any memories or thoughts about him and his part of your life, I hope you’ll share them. I’m collecting letters for a book that we’ll give him that evening. Please email your thoughts to me: barberbell @ gmail.com. What a treasure to be able to share these memories while he’s with us. In the end, I think we all realize this is what life’s about.
One thing I remember most about my grandma and grandpa Richards is their consistent gratitude. I know my dad carries on the tradition and I hope each of us will too. We are so thankful. Thank you for the friends and family who have cared and supported us. My dad is a private guy and I think we all prefer to press on and take care of ourselves. But we know prayers and faith work and we thank you for keeping them coming.