Today I met with a trusted advisor and shared my story of my dad’s illness and death. My intention of this meeting was to gain insight into my grieving process: have I missed a step, am I crazy, am I doing this correctly?
While I know that grief is a singular process, and I know it’s something I’m not running from, I just needed some semi-professional reassurance that my process is falling within the boundaries of normal.
Here’s the deal: It’s been almost 7 months since Dad died from a terrible, ruthless cancer. We don’t know how many tumors were in his brain when he passed, with their nasty tentacles. November 14th will be two years since the diagnosis – The Call – and I’m pretty sure I began my mourning and grieving process that day, that hour, that second, that breath.
I shared many great days with my Dad in the 16.5 months after The Call. I visited him, he visited me. We ran errands together that eventually required motorized carts at Lowe’s and then forgetting why we were there. The use of a cane to walk 256 feet to the edge of Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park – then he posed for photos with my husband and son flexing their muscles like strong men beside the lake. He shared very specific, mystical experiences with me (“They’re waiting for me.”). We watched television and birds and I tried to communicate it was only 4am, so no, we were not going to be able to get donuts and get a haircut yet….choosing to not remind him that he hadn’t been able to walk or leave his bed for months. I emptied his pee bag. I wiped his tears. I prepared food. I was present.
I feel like each and every moment with my dad from his diagnosis was one of mourning, and yet, each moment was more valuable than the one before. Shiny-er and more vibrant, until finally, it was all over.
No more Sunday phone calls, no seeing my kids play sports or helping my husband with a house project. No more giggles and pure joy when we arrive at his house, or he at ours. No more inviting friends over at his request so he could see them while he was in town. No more Fat Tire, Silver Grill, fire pit…rituals – gone. Gone. They’re just all gone.
And here’s where I feel fine.
I feel like my dad lived an amazing life. He impacted so many people. At his funeral a resounding theme was, “I thought I was his best friend.” That is no small feat – to make everyone around you feel like they are the most important person in your eyes. He pulled it off flawlessly – and meant it.
I feel rested, and complete, and hopeful. I feel sad sometimes, but mostly I feel good. Strong. I also feel like I have been given glimpses into the mystical and unknown, through things Dad shared with me, but also by choosing to sit in the midst of the pain and the deterioration and the transition from body and the newly specific loneliness.
Something I said out loud today to my trusted advisor was that my dad always chose me. Always. He breathed life into me and encouraged and truly supported and respected me as a person. He loved me unconditionally. I know that the love he had for me is exactly what I feel about my own kids – and my intention is to be present for them, to show up, and hope that one day they say, “My mom always chose me.”
About fourteen years ago (pre-kids by a few years) I recognized that when my kids started middle school, that would be the time that I was home. Home to send them off and home to greet them. Being present. Being ready to listen, to engage when they wanted to, to just share space with them. This fall my son started middle school. I think the stars have been working to align over the last few years. Aligning to point toward the forgotten desires of my heart, with an unexpected, and frankly, unfathomable trajectory to get there.
I would take my dad back in a heartbeat and my enormously stressful job, too, but that’s not where we are. We are here. Right now. In this moment and this situation.
I’m feeling just fine. I’m smiling. I’m growing. I’m sad, but I am strong. And I am present.