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Abiding and Deep

Carl Thress | Sunday, January 31, 2016

In the days leading up to my father’s death, he was haunted by vivid, terrifying hallucinations. That’s what we all thought they were, anyway. The hydrocephalus and failed shunt surgery had robbed him of his voice, so there was no way to know for sure what he was seeing. Whatever these encounters were, they left him visibly shaken, with a look of fear I had never seen before.

These episodes would happen sporadically and last a few minutes each time. Whenever they occurred, I would stand there helpless, heartbroken, and angry at the god he had served so faithfully for most of his adult life. It was bad enough he had taken the old man’s voice, but now he saw fit to torment him — or to let him be tormented. So much for a god of love, mercy, and grace.

But amidst my anger and lashing out at God (not the first or last time I’d do that — I’ve had more than my share of Lt. Dan in the storm moments over the years), I witnessed something remarkable.

As Dad lay there shaking and trying to rebuke whatever it was he saw in front of him, my mother would take his hand and quietly reassure him that everything would be okay.

Eventually, the visions would pass, and Mom would smile down at him and remind Dad just how much she loved him. She’d talk about the promise they made to dance together at their granddaughter’s wedding later that year. Dad died just a couple days later, and my brothers and I had to keep that promise for him, but that’s a story for another time.

Right now, I want to focus on that moment — on the love of a wife for the husband she had married more than five decades earlier, the husband who had raised four children with her and had mourned the death of a fifth. I want to focus on the way she held his hand and comforted him — not unlike the way she had comforted me in my own times of need — when I was sick or injured as a child, and more recently when she had taken time to stay with me during the low point of a depression I suffered after losing my job unexpectedly.

Growing up, I always knew my parents loved each other, and I knew how fortunate I was to be part of their family. As I watched my mom standing there beside my dad’s hospital bed, I realized just how deep that love had always been, and I felt grateful all over again.

When we gathered again less than a week later to celebrate my father’s life and mourn his passing, there were no hallucinations or stolen voices to contend with, but there were plenty of tears. In our collective sorrow, we found comfort in each other’s company and in the love we had learned at Mom and Dad’s feet all those years ago.

It was the same love I had seen on display in that small room at Johns Hopkins Hospital just a few days before — the abiding love that chases demons, quiets fears, and shines light in the darkest places we ever have to go.



Carl Thress | Wednesday, January 27, 2016

“I want to be last.” It’s a familiar refrain in our house. Whether it’s serving up supper, walking out to the car, picking out candy at the dollar store, or placing an order for one of Dad’s dessert runs, whatever the activity, our six-year-old wants to be last. [...]



Carl Thress | Sunday, January 24, 2016

The older I get, the more I realize just how much fear and hatred we have in our world. Much of that loathing is set aside for people we deem ‘others’ — those who don’t fit neatly into our comfortable molds of what a person should look like, believe in, think, feel, or love. [...]


My Father’s Son

Carl Thress | Friday, January 22, 2016

When my father died, I was heartbroken, but I was also 43 years old. I had had many years to enjoy my Dad’s company before he died. At the time, that seemed like cold comfort, but as time passes, I realize more and more just how fortunate I truly am. [...]


Healthcare for All

Carl Thress | Thursday, January 21, 2016

Some people say the current healthcare system isn’t broken. I say yes, it is. When a quarter of my family’s income is going to pay for insurance and medical services every month (and we’re a relatively healthy family), there most certainly is something very wrong. [...]