About two years ago, on an ordinary Thursday morning, our whole life seemed to turn around. My father had slipped and fallen on the yard.
His condition was critical. We were in for a long period of uncertainty and waiting. In my distress I prayed to the Heavenly Father: ”Please, do not let my father die! I do not want to part from him yet!” The next day we were happy to hear that he had come out of coma. The doctors did not know which parts of his brain had been injured, but the most important thing for me at that time was to know that my dear father was alive.
Late on Friday evening I got on a train with a feverish baby. I could not wait to see my father. The baby kept me awake and I got hardly any sleep. I did not know in what condition I would find my father the next morning, but I felt secure: whatever might happen would be known by the Heavenly Father. He had allowed our mother to find father before she had gone out on her errands.
When I opened the door of the hospital room, I almost did not recognize him. I stood still. But when he repeated my words: ”Virpi from Hämeenlinna”, my heart filled with great joy: he knew who I was. Standing by his bedside I felt very strongly that nothing in life is self-evident. Life is a gift, everything is a gift. The doctor told me and my mother that father had been very close to losing his ability to speak. Although many things were still unknown and uncertain, that visit marked the beginning of a period of great joy and gratitude in our family. In the evening all my siblings gathered with our mother in our home. We felt a strong family bond and, most of all, deep gratitude.
During the following weeks of recovery we shared happy pictures and videos of our father taking his first steps or enjoying the home-made goodies someone had given him. Someone had even brought him hamburgers, and it was wonderful to see him enjoy them. We could not have cared less about healthy food, the main thing was that he was able to eat. Looking back to those early times, I think we were supported and carried by our gratitude. Later we had to accept the reality of brain damage, but I can still remember the initial realization that nothing should be taken for granted and all good things are a gift.
My father’s accident affected my own life in many ways. We had arranged child care to give my husband and I an opportunity for a weekly ”date”. We once went jogging by the lake, discussing what we hoped for in life, where we would like to live, and what things were important to us. Life suddenly seemed like a wonderful gift. Around that time I also came across information about a training course for solution-focused brief therapy. I had never thought about enrolling in a study program, but on those pages I found a way of thinking that was already familiar to me. From a rational point of view, it did not seem a good idea to take on extra obligations when I already had a busy life, but with the practical arrangements done, it seemed very easy to sign up for part-time studies. Now that I am close to completing my two-year curriculum, I must admit that the extra work has given me a lot of extra joy.
My father’s accident broke a security bubble in my life: I became aware that anything can happen to anybody. Yet that did not make me fearful of life. At that time, and also because I had several children, I understood how important it is to be able to calm down in the face of adversity: ”Everything will be all right, the Heavenly father will take care of us, don’t worry.” If we panic in a difficult situation, things will turn even worse. At a time of distress even those not used to praying will pray. It is good to know that “all things are in God’s hands”, though we easily ask: Why, then, does He allow our difficulties to continue? When faced by such questions, we often remain without answers.
Although I found my faith comforting at the time of my father’s accident, the situation can be different for other people. When a person experiences a catastrophe in life, other people’s words may seem very significant, but not always in a good way. Despite the speaker’s good intentions, encouragement to think positively about the situation or an excessively spiritual interpretation of what happened may wound. Grief and shock need to be processed over time, and different people need different lengths of time for that process.
I have realized that I should actually think more often about death or serious illness, both my own and my dear ones’. I should think about my own death from the viewpoint of faith, and the death of other people from the viewpoint of gratitude. ”I still have parents that I can call or visit.” After my father’s accident I was deeply touched when I first saw the word ”father” blinking on the screen of my phone. We so easily take our dear ones for granted. Awareness of the fragility of life affects our attitudes toward others. I remember reading an article about a depressed father who was not able to run the daily family life. Once a month he felt strong enough to go the playground with his children. That article really made me pause. I had so easily accepted that my husband makes a full contribution to our family life. Instead of making assumptions and demands, I would like to listen to him more sensitively and ask him about his resources. We can begin to learn gratitude by accepting that nothing in life is an automatic fringe benefit.
My studies included one particularly effective assignment: Write a commemorative speech for yourself. What kind of a memory would I like to leave if I were to die now? “She was a hard-working person who often exhausted herself with endless household chores. When she was tired, she created a depressive atmosphere in her home, and she seldom had time to do things with her children.” Or alternatively: ”She learnt to take care of herself, and the household work was often done together in a friendly and positive atmosphere. She did many fun things with her children.” These two alternatives sometimes come to my mind on a Saturday morning when there are more things to do than I care to think. Some good choices, however, can make a significant impact on how the day turns out.
I have written here about somewhat darker topics, but I would like to close on a happier note by telling you about something that very much cheers my mind: the hard, crusted snow that we often have in the early spring, when the sun warms and softens the surface of the snow in the daytime and the colder nights cause it to develop a crust hard enough to walk on. I have been especially happy about this for two reasons: our baby is old enough to be put in a small sled, and our puppy can run around freely on the fields. And I can either ski or walk. I like skiing, but I would not like to drive across the town to get on a maintained track. This winter there have been no tracks on the nearby lake, but the hard snow on the fields has been like a highway. The best thing is that I can take the little ones out there the first thing in the morning. I ski or walk and pull the baby in a sled. One Sunday morning the baby woke up bright and early at seven. After breakfast, while part of the family were still asleep, I took the baby and the puppy on the fields. In the bright sunshine I saw a group of beautiful deer, and together with the dog I listened to the harmonious chorus of birds. At some point the baby’s head began to nod, but I still did not want to go home right away and leave that wonderful sunny morning.
Text: Virpi Myllyniemi
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original Finnish blog post here.
Kristillisyytemme toiminnan eräs perusarvo on vapaaehtoisuuden vaaliminen. Toiminta on vapaaehtoista myös taloudellisesta näkökulmasta, sillä se pohjautuu lahjoitusvaroihin. Toiminnan organisoiminen auttaa tehtävien ja vastuun jakamisessa. Jotta rauhanyhdistys toimii, se edellyttää jäsenten sitoutumista, vastuun ottamista ja luottamusta.