Beth was a difficult young teenager. All 14 year old girls innately fight for independence, but Beth was more precocious and rebellious than most girls at her age.
By this time in her life, she had already made plenty of BIG mistakes and even had run away and lived on her own in another state. Ironically Beth came from a good middle class home with a Mommy and a Daddy who loved her very much. Sometimes she wished they didn’t love her so much because her mistakes are what caused her parents more grief. She did not want to stop ‘growing up’ too fast and it was a constant struggle in the family home.
One morning her father, who was an avid High School Soccer coach, came home from coaching his team of teen girls. He was a bit out of breath. Beth showed no concern, her father even at 50 was very healthy. But when her mother was in a desperate hunt for the Family Medical Guide, Beth wondered what could be wrong.
Beth walked into her parents room to find her father on the bed, mother immersed in the medical guide when suddenly her father went into some kind of paralysis. To Beth’s horror, her father’s arms pulled up into the fetal position and his hands curled.
As he tried to speak, Beth’s fathers mouth could not manipulate words as he slurred,
“Heart Attack?” Beth’s mom immediately called 911 and ran upstairs to get something or other to assist him.
For that moment Beth watched her father in agony. She felt so helpless with not a clue of what to do for him. On the other hand her still rebelliousness of not showing feeling was hidden amidst her terror…why?
Suddenly she remembered the theory that before someone dies their life flashes before their eyes. Ridden with abrupt guilt of all the pain Beth had caused her father… she lost it!
Beth ran into her bedroom and cried out to God… the being she had backslid from, the entity of all power and might… the one and only who could not only forgive her for her sins but save her father’s life. With such anguish Beth had never experienced in her entire life, her voice cried out in a groan.
“Oh God, please don’t let my Daddy die! Please forgive me for all the pain I have caused him in his life. Lord, don’t let his last memories be of the terrible things I did that hurt him!”
Beth could barely mumble out another word as her heart pounded with guilt and fear. She reminisced on how her father might be reviewing his life.
Beth imagined her father weeping with worry after Beth had run away the year before. Beth pictured her father and mother laying in bed up all night, eyes blood shot from tears when she landed herself in jail overnight for doing something or other. Beth pondered the day her father tried to hug her after she had an incident with her boyfriend….Beth had pushed him away.
All the past few years Beth had never shown her father love. Deep inside of course she had always had a bond with this good man. She had always a special place for him, but since she began to grow into a teenager she never displayed affection, love, or understanding. How could she let her father suffer and die when all he could remember was the agony that she had caused? If he died today, he would never know how much she really loved him.
The pain ripped and seared at Beth’s heart in a way she had never felt before. Although this moment in her bedroom, alone with God and her guilt was brief, Beth knew her father sat alone in his room. Mother was still upstairs. I can only imagine that perhaps Mother was reacting in fear and panic as well.
Beth suddenly thought that her father should NOT be alone, even for a moment… when the ambulance arrived.
Dressed only in a long button up shirt to her knees and underwear, she was un-aware of how she must have looked to the ambulance crew, nor did she care. Beth ran to her Dad’s bedroom doorway and looked at his helpless body there all alone. She wanted to say so much, she still tried to hide her tears.
The medical staff rushed around her and Beth stayed at that doorway, keeping out of the way, while the technicians worked on her father. For a moment her father looked to her, she just wanted him to know he wasn’t alone as she stood so many feet away, silent, trying to hide her tears.
Was Beth correct when she saw a disgusted look from a female EMT… was it her clothes, was it her misunderstood silence? Now Beth’s opportunity to tell her father how sorry she was gone as 8 E.M.T.'s surrounded her father’s body shouting out orders.
Beth stood there, alone, shocked, grieving, and praying… hoping that when her father looked at her in the doorway, he could see that she loved him and that he wasn’t alone. But how could he believe that after all she had done?
BETH silently cried out to God one last time to spare her father so she could tell him that she loved him and try to make up for those lost years.
Then suddenly her father began to improve as the staff worked tirelessly and moved him to a stretcher. Her mother was back and talking to him and her father began to speak back….
As they wheeled her father up the stairs and away, she said, “I love you, Daddy, you will be okay.” At least she was able to say she loved him, but so much left unsaid.
Beth stood alone, at the bottom of the stairs in her empty house. All had gone to the hospital, Beth left behind in a rush with out being dressed.
She wept like she had never wept before. She felt love like she had never felt it before. And Beth felt a new understanding of how one should treat those they loved, because you never know when they will be gone.
But most of all, Beth realized that we must find a way to tell people we love and appreciate them while they are here. Death is sad, but the death left with so much unsaid can cause a lifetime of regret for those left living.
Showing affection in her family is not a physical thing. In her family love is expressed in actions instead, such as helping a sister or mother in need, being supportive in times of crisis, or standing up for a family member in trouble. Physical hugs are uncomfortable and rare… but love always existed and there was never a doubt for anyone in the family.
That would never change, perhaps, but Beth knew that in the future, there had to be ways to express love and appreciation and it needed to be acknowledged… even silently. If Beth’s father lived, she made a vow she would try everyday to tell her father in one way or another that he was loved.
What takes other people the hard way to learn this… Beth learned this at 14 years old.
Author’s Note: Beth’s father suffered perhaps a heat stoke, or some one time episode caused by the exercise and heat of the morning. He recovered quickly. He spent a day in the hospital and was released to her relief. He is alive today.