“Your dad looks great!”
I’ve heard that several times the past few days since my dad has been out of his most recent stay in the hospital and I’ve thought a lot about appearance and what does make people look good.
I had a similar experience with a friend I deeply admired before she passed away last spring from cancer. I saw her for just a moment at a wedding. I knew she was not doing well and was surprised to see her. But of course she was there and she was radiant. With a smile and quick hug that I hope to always keep with me, she taught me about what we are all striving for in this life. To be graceful with the lot we’re given and our burdens to bear. And to live a life that will ultimately close with refinement.
My dad’s most recent hospital stay was an especially hard one. To put it simply, he went in for complications we’re familiar with but came home without the familiar feeling of a new plan and new hope.
Here’s what I posted while he was in the hospital, on probably the hardest day.
While he was in the hospital we invited friends and family to join together in unified prayer for the team of doctors at the moment they were reviewing his case. It was an experience and feeling I hope to never forget. Knowing how many were sharing their support and love for my dad and faith for his future was humbling as I knelt on the floor at work at 11:00 that day. I’ll admit I hoped that the volume of prayers would somehow influence and sway the outcome of the doctor’s meeting. It had to. But soon I remembered that is not how faith or prayer works.
We didn’t receive a definitive plan from the doctors. Mostly a confirmation that most doors for intervention were shutting, that “He’s been through too much.” and that he should go home and be comfortable and enjoy life as he could. It’s taken me a while to realize that though our prayers were not answered in the way we wanted them to be that day, they are answered in his boost of strength and peace to our family. And we are so grateful.
And like he always does, dad got up and rose to the challenge. My mom sent us this picture the next day as they took advantage of some time off to explore and adventure, as they always do.
He does look great, doesn’t he?
As I think about what looks great on him it’s certainly not his frail figure, his discoloring skin, the bulging hernias, distended abdomen, or the arthritic joints. It’s in his countenance. It’s in his good life. It’s the fact that he’s been given another day. He’s with his wife and probably on their way to see the grandkids and that is worth looking great for.
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.
Thanks to Deseret News for covering my RootsTech session. You can read the article here.
The other day I saw an internet meme titled “The Face of 2016”. The picture was of a man looking tired, disheveled, not angry at the moment but probably had been recently, and overall pretty beat up.
2016 was a difficult year for our nation and our world. This past year was coated with differences of opinions on every subject. It was inescapable. If you had a belief, vulnerability or something you hold dear, you can guarantee it was challenged. Hearing a recap of the top news stories on the radio left me feeling the familiar fear, anxiety, sadness and confusion. There was so much ugly. The lives lost are nothing to make light of and I pray our future improves. It has to.
But for me, I can’t reflect on 2016 without smiling back at this sweet face.
She embodies everything good from this past year and the reason we have hope for the next. Cybil’s birth in April changed me in an instant. She entered this world with the sweetest, most peaceful and bright disposition. Now that she’s a little older she’s learned to smile, wave, clap, and brighten up anyone’s day she comes in contact with. It’s been a joy to witness. I wish we all could be as accepting as little children.
Cybil’s gift to me was helping me slow down, listen and appreciate. This year in the midst of the restlessness and disagreements I really tried to listen. I tried to pause before reaching conclusions, to see past the abrasiveness and hear people over headlines. I realized I needed to spend more effort hearing how my friends were feeling, what they believe or don’t believe and their viewpoints than I had before. I surely wasn’t perfect and I know I have a long way to go. But I feel like I’m rounding out 2016 as hopefully a better person and open to learning even more in the future.
So as we look toward 2017, I’ll keep looking to these beautiful, bright-eyed children. I know their love and excitement for life will keep growing, and I hope all of ours can too.
I can’t wait to write more about our trip. But for now I just closed the cover on this book and my thoughts are still consumed. This beautifully, thoughtfully written this novel about young Chellamuthu being kidnapped in India, adopted to the U.S. and his quest to find his past captured my attention right away.
Courage comes in doing common things.
Most enlightening to me was sharing this book with Jetta. Even though she just turned 8 she’s incredible mature and has been a nurturer since the day she was born. Every time she’d see me buried in the book she would ask “What happened to the little boy? Did he escape the orphanage? Did he make it back to his family?” I debated how much detail to share about the kidnapping but realized the story depended on it and life will depend on us learning from the bruises of the past. As I neared the end she couldn’t wait “Did he find his family?” I’ll make you wait to find that out too.
Reading and relaying story to young daughter and overhearing husband was a great way to internalize the message. She asked so Mang questions about the orphan keeper and why he did the things he had. Why he had gone to such lengths to get Chellamuthu to the U.S. when he had known he’d been kidnapped? Why was the title of the book about him, not about Taj? The morality of the situation is hard for adults and children alike to understand. But the focus is correctly shone in the title and throughout the book.
“This is slavery, not to speak one’s thought.” -The Phoenician Women
We both resonated with Chellamuthu’s story coming home on Christmas Eve. Longed for him to be able to communicate and get out of his ‘box’. Recognized the lessons about bravery and heroes taught from inside that young boy’s mind.
Jetta has been especially drawn to her two cousins recently adopted from China. She loves to play with them, translate their expectations and experience their new lives through their eyes. They have all taught me so much about how love is able to communicate over all. How life is full of new chances and hearts can be won over in an instant.
I knew this novel was based off a true story. The prologue sealed my hope thet Taj and Pria’s story is just as special and incredible as the book tells. Read this book. Don’t peek ahead at the pictures at the end, but know that the story is worth holding on for.