The Gratitude Parking Lot
My Mom has some health problems which means she has a handicapped permit for her car. Usually that makes it a lot easier to find parking, but not in the parking lot at my father’s hospital.
This past Thursday, the day after my dad’s abdominal surgery, I had been driving around the Sinai Hospital parking lot with my mom for a few minutes when I finally found a spot. I started to turn my wheel, but then I noticed a sign which read:
“Reserved Parking for Outpatient Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Department Only”
Thank G-d we couldn’t park there, I thought.
I drove down another row and saw an open spot. But as I started to turn my wheel, I saw another sign which read:
“Cancer Patient Only.”
Thank G-d we can’t park there either, I thought.
“This the Gratitude Parking Lot,” I told my Mom.
A few hours after our visit, my father had a heart attack and was rushed to the ICU. The doctors sounded pessimistic.
I drove over to the hospital and found a place to park. but I didn’t feel nearly as grateful as I had the last time I had driven up and down those rows of cars…
When I entered the ICU, I was stunned by what I saw. My Dad lay there lifeless, hooked up to a breathing machine which beeped every time my father’s chest rose.
I placed my hand on his arm and said, “Hi Dad, it’s Jenny.”
There was no response. Almost like my Dad wasn’t in there anymore.
I can’t remember the last time I felt quite that hopeless.
I stood by his bedside and pleaded for my father to recover. I read some Psalms. I promised to give charity. But it all felt futile. Impossible. Lost.
And then, as I walked out, I noticed the room across from my father’s and saw a teenage boy lying there as lifeless as my father.
And I thought of these two endangered lives— the short life of that poor boy and the life of my 74-year-old father.
I thought of 50 years of marriage to a woman he loves and who loves him with all her heart.
I thought of 3 children—all of them good-hearted human beings whom he’s seen get married and have children of their own.
I thought of 50 years of helping thousands of human beings through his skill as a radiologist and cancer researcher.
74 years defined by goodness, integrity, and dedication.
A 24 carat diamond of a life.
And I felt a surprising joy mixed in with the sadness.
I braced myself for the visit to my father the following day, on Shabbat.
How thrilling, though, to see that even though his eyes were still closed and he couldn’t speak, he could now understand what I was saying.
I told him that the moment my 4-year-old got on the phone with me the day before, she’d requested, “Eema, can I speak with Saba?”
“Dad, do you remember I volunteered at this hospital when I was in high school?”
On Sunday, my mother picked up the phone in our TV room, and she started crying.
It was Dad, talking on the phone…
That day we went to visit my Dad, who had been moved out of the ICU.
He was exhausted, but his eyes were open for much of our visit. He was talking. He kvelled over his grandson Yonatan whom he was meeting for the first time.
My father still has very far to go before he is fully recovered. In several weeks he will need to undergo a very serious surgical procedure before this medical journey is through.
I love my father so much. And it’s scary.
But through the ups and downs, and the spins round and round, I’m trying my best to stay in the Gratitude Parking Lot. It helps. Me, and maybe my Dad too?
And thank you for all your prayers for Matityahu Tuvia ben Esther Tsipora.
I feel I can see them working with my own eyes.