Hello…is thing on? Am i still in your feeds? Thanks for sticking it out through my silent pause the last couple months. I haven’t been writing, because honestly I haven’t had anything worthy of writing about until now.
First of all, thank you to each and every reader/blend/friend who reached out to me both while my dads health was severely dwindling during August and September, and then after he passed away on September 9th. I hear you, I see you, and I love you from the bottom of my heart.
Today, it has been a month since he died. It has been the longest month of my life. After he died, i took the next week and a half to be with my family and I would not change that for anything. Returning to work has been insane…I was so lucky to have great colleagues cover for me in my absence, but coming back to anything after 2 weeks away, let alone classes that I hadn’t ever taught before this semester. This is the end of my 3rd week back and just yesterday was the first day I felt like I wasn’t drowning.
Maybe this is the teacher in me, but I feel obligated to share my experience. During the past 5 years of my dad battling every disease known to man, I found peace and comfort listening/reading to others share their journeys of coping, acceptance, and grief. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my sadness. It made me feel like my emotions were normal. It made me feel prepared, which, I guess sounds a little morbid. What I’m trying to say is that it helped me learn to accept that when someone we love is very sick, is suffering, or dies, the most we can ask of ourselves is to give them everything we are capable of and graciously accept what we cannot change or do. I hope that by sharing my experience, someone else can benefit. I have decided to write 3 posts, all touching on different aspects of this experience. Today’s post I’d like to share how I have felt and coped with all of this, hoping that it makes a burden a little easier for someone else to bear.
At times, I feel like I have aged a hundred years during these past 3 years my dad has been “sick”, and then another hundred during this month following his death. Some days, I am resentful that my conscious has seen too much and is too old for my young body. That is too young to lose your dad! I say those words and it just angers me, quickly. At other times, I think of how scared I have felt, especially over the past month, and in an instant how I felt like a child again. The constant limbo has not faded, even after a month.
I am 27, my sister is 22. That is too young to lose your dad! I am sure many would argue, any age is too young to lose your dad! And ya know what, I would wholeheartedly agree with them. It is not fair, but it is the way it is. I have found much peace in turning my frame of thinking like that into a positive. Over the past month, whenever I get sad, I have to repeat this mantra.
“I am 27 years old, I had a great dad for 27 years. So many humans never get anything close to that. I am lucky. I am so, so lucky.” Believing that is enough to make me smile and has been the single most important belief that has gotten me through this. It is a challenge to see the positive sides of dark situations, but I swear to you, it has made a world of difference in my well-being and happiness.
Earlier this summer, I read a post on facebook from Sheryl Sandberg, written a month after her husband unexpectedly died. Out of all the posts, this resonated with me the most, even when my dad was alive. It has held more true now in my own past 30 days. I invited you to grab some magnifying glasses and read it here, or venture to her facebook and read through this link.
Sheryl’s situation and mine are so different. I can’t imagine the shock she must have felt on top of her grief. It took me a good 3 years of my dad slowly getting weaker to fully accept that he would leave us, therefore my shock factor was minimal when he did die, making it, in my opinion, easier on me to grasp the “death”. Grief however, is similar. I identify so much with what Sheryl has to say and I think she is very courageous to share that with others.
I get asked, “how are you doing?” often and am so very grateful for everyone who has thought of me and taken the time to check in on me. Often times, the first thought in my head in response to that questions is similar to Sheryl’s…in the grand scheme of things, I still think well, my dad died a month ago that not enough time has not passed for me to be ok. But who says that? I have good days, I have bad days, I’m getting there.
I’ll be very frank and start at the beginning. As morbid as this sounds, I have had a feeling all along that my dad would die in conjunction with something related to pneumonia ever since he had it for the first time since his transplant 3 years ago. When he started to get pneumonia more often this past summer, I felt the pit in my stomach growing. I’m not an idiot, I’m a scientist! I know how many elderly people die from pneumonia that just catch it once and his kept coming back! I really knew we were in for it when he started coughing up blood in August, soon after returning from our amazing summer at the lake…and in my worry-wart type of way, I prepared myself for the worst. The next 3 weeks in the hospital until he died was a whirlwind. My mom and I were trying to start school, my sister had just moved to DC to start a job. None of that mattered. While we had prepared ourselves for the worst before and witnessed the beauty of medicine and miracles, we eventually knew that it wasn’t going to happen again. He progressively got worse, we made the time to be there, and I don’t regret one single decision that we made about spending all that time with him or the decisions we made about his care.
In my situation and view, it was the suffering that was worse than the death. The parts that hurt the most, are the week leading up until he died. I can tell you one thing for sure, if there is one thing I have learned to pray for others for, it is that they never, ever, have to watch their loved ones suffer. The pain I felt, and still feel, from being unable to control what he had to go through the last few years and that last week is excruciating and haunts me. That is what keeps me up at night. The fact that he could still smile at me through everything, even in the last days when he knew we were in trouble, just kill me. I can deal with the fact that I don’t get to call him on my way home from work anymore, that he won’t be there at my wedding, but I cannot comprehend and make sense of the suffering and helplessness he and I both felt. People keep telling me that I’m “doing so well” in response to his death and I think part of this is due to the relief that he is no longer suffering on this earth.
In the days of my dad’s death, I surprised myself at how strong I was able to be. I shouldn’t have been surprised whatsoever, knowing that a) I was around my mom and sister who are beautiful role models of strength, but most importantly, my dad had done his job raising me and I knew I could stand on my own without him and be ok. That also made the acceptance of the situation easier for me. Since he died, i still choose to view him in the same way I did when he was here. And as a testament to how much he loved me, I can honestly tell you that even though he isn’t physically here, I still feel his love and presence all around me. That gave me so much strength.
I don’t know how many people get to say this about their dead dads, but I honestly have no regrets. None. Nada. I had a loving, strong relationship with my dad. He was, “my person” and to this day, remains the only person who has ever truly understood how my mind works because we are the same person. Am I sad that the one person who ever truly got me isn’t on this earth? Yes, obviously. But I know that I turned out the way I did for the better because I had him. Over the years, there are many times I chose to spend time with my family and missed out on opportunities with friends. I am so grateful for those memories. I drove countless hours to hospitals to see my dad over the past few years. I spent many phone calls with him talking about nothing, just to keep him occupied. I was able to be there when it mattered. He knew how much I loved him and I knew how much he loved me. At my dad’s visitation, i heard over and over from people about how proud they thought my dad was of me. Pride, my friends, is a two way street. As proud as he was of me, I was just as proud of him. And the pride I have always had in my father, although he drove me bat-shit crazy, is steadfast and beaming. I loved being his kid. I love that I had him and I can walk forward knowing that i’ll be ok.
I have no regrets and I am fairly sure he didn’t have any with me either. Being confident in that, makes the burden a little easier to bear.