We Keep Moving...

This article was first published in the 5Rhythms Teacher Spotlight for December 2018.

“We can’t bring Dad home for Thanksgiving,” Mom texts. It’s the first year Dad won’t be home for Thanksgiving. My Dad has Alzheimer’s. I moved him into the locked unit a year and a half ago. Mom just couldn’t. This year, the thought of bringing him home was just too much for Mom – sometimes he can get angry and try to hit people. So, when my family gathered around the table for our Thanksgiving meal, Dad wasn’t in his chair. 

After our meal, I go by “the home” to see Dad. He’s asleep, sprawled out haphazardly across the bed, his legs half hanging over the edge, his hat fallen off. I lay down beside Dad. He opens his eyes as soon as I’m there. He recognizes me, tears fill his eyes . . . He says nothing, just keeps looking in my eyes -- his tears keep running. We cry together for a long while. There is nothing to say. He takes my hand and places it on his heart. A shared love, a shared loss, the fatality, the finality of life crossing between our eyes. The vulnerability of being a human – a daughter, a father. The ways we consoled ourselves that this separation really wasn’t coming, gone now. All that’s left is this movement between us, love.

My Dad knew how to have fun . . . he trusted his body. He once flew his ultralight into an electric line, jumping out just before it hit. When I asked him what it felt like he said, “Well, I knew I had to jump before I hit or I’d be gone. I just tucked and landed as softly as I could, then rolled on down the hill.” As soon as he got to his feet, he went home, got his golf clubs and went to join his friends for a game. He didn’t stop living. He trusted his body when fear came. 

In the wave, I’ve found a way to embody what my father was showing me by how he lived. I heard it coming through the music the first time, felt it go into my cells. I practiced breathing and moving it into my being. There is no protection from what life has needed to show me, will show me. I do my best to feel, love, and experience all of it. This practice gives me a way to get closer to life . . . and to death. Embodiment gives me a way to stay in curiosity, enthusiasm, great awe and the agility to move softly with change. This I relearn every time I step on the floor. 

My Dad will go sooner or later. What will it feel like, to be on the planet without him? Will I experience life in a different way? Will it physically hurt? Curiosity endures with deep trust – in the body – in the dance. This is my practice, what I am learning and what I teach: that there is grace in the present moment, that the physical world is a gift and the body a vehicle for my heart to express love, that when the time comes I will know what to say and what to do. 

On Thanksgiving evening in the “the home,” Dad gets out of bed. We walk down to the dining room. I get him his favorite drink – Dr. Pepper. We talk for a bit while he sips his soda and eats crackers. Then, when the time comes, I show him a puzzle some of the other residents are working. I say “Goodbye, Dad” and then point to the puzzle piece. “Where does this go?” While he studies the puzzle, I walk out of the room. I’m on my journey, and Dad on his. All of us are. We trust, breathe, feel, love, and . . . we keep moving.

Ann