It's been one and a half months since my Dad died. Even now typing those words still takes the breath out of me. It's hard to form cohesive thoughts to speak of this loss. In many ways I am still reeling. I am still coming to terms with the shocking wrongness of this new reality. He was a pillar in my life. How could he be gone?
It's been one and a half months since my Dad died. Even now typing those words still takes the breath out of me.
My Dad was just fine at Christmas, completely himself. On New Year's Eve after a blood sugar incident (he was diabetic) he went to the ER and it looked as though he was going to be ok. Then a blood test confirmed he had had a heart attack. He was admitted and then learned he needed open heart surgery.
There were too many complications to name, he spent five long months in the hospital and rehab. He gave it everything he had to try to heal and recover. In the end he got a terrible infection and his body couldn't fight anymore.
I could write for hours about the challenges, little victories and countless memories of all he endured in those last months. I could share about precious time spent reading him books at his bedside. I could write at great length about the agony of watching someone you love suffer and endure so much. I could also go into great detail about how strong he was, and how he brought tears to my eyes when he would crack jokes with those around him while he was in so much pain, and feeling so weak while facing an uncertain future. I could share about how he was surrounded by his family as he took his last breath, and that he whispered to every single person individually that he loved them that night before he passed.
I could write about all of that in detail but it feels so overwhelming, and I don't want to focus all my thoughts on those last 5 months. I want to remember him for how he lived, and all the beautiful memories I will treasure in my heart always. I want to remember the sound of his voice when he would greet me with "Angel!" (his nickname for me) whenever I came home. I want to remember him in his blue chair in the living room, with the pink crabapple tree blossoming outside the window, where his grandchildren would climb into his lap and he would read them story after story, using all the best voices - just like he did for me when I was little. I want to remember the silly sounds he made when he was being a goof, his spicy comments that always got us joking that "Papa was inappropriate", and his infectious laugh that made everyone around him laugh. He told the best stories. It was so fun to sit and listen when he got to telling stories about the good old days. I want to remember what his hands looked like. I loved his strong hands. He made so many beautiful things with those hands. I want to think about all of these good things and countless others. I want the people in my life to still bring him up. To still check in.
Back in 2012 my husband and I lost our son Evan. I can tell you each loss is so very different, yet there are some things that are similar. The loss of our son was part of what brought me to Weathered Raindrop. Rachel Fitzgerald, the owner and founder of Weathered Raindrop, reached out to me after his death. Her ability to relate and understand what I was going through as she too had lost her daughter (and later also her son), made a profound impact on me. I felt less alone in my grief. Years later God brought our paths back together and now we work together to help others along their grief journey.
As I now walk along this difficult path with my mother, who has lost the love of her life, (their 49th wedding anniversary would have been this month) I can share some valuable life lessons I have learned in how to respond to someone's pain and devastation.
I can say that one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that facing someone's pain and devastation IS going to be uncomfortable, and I need to endure the discomfort, not turn away from it, or try to soothe myself by trying to make it better somehow. Our natural response is to want to offer advice, some words of comfort, or tell the person how strong they are. I have learned when I feel those tendencies rising up in me, I remind myself that the best gift I can give that person is to face the uncomfortable reality that there isn't anything I can say or do to make it better. I need to listen. I need to bear witness to their pain, I need to agree with them that this is devastating. I need to let them feel heard. This helps them to not feel so alone in their grief.
Telling someone who is grieving that they are strong is not always a comfort to them. They don't have a choice but to endure this, and they may not feel strong at all. I don't want to make someone feel misunderstood or alone in their feelings. I want to offer a safe place to share whatever they need to share and process. I don't need to offer any advice, I don't want them to feel I am minimizing the pain. I want my Mom and others with hurting hearts who are journeying through grief to know they are not alone.
So this week as I have received hard life-changing news, I wish I could call my Dad. I sure wish I could get his advice, or just hear him tell me it was going to be ok. I know my Heavenly Father will guide me along my path and comfort my heart as I miss my Dad. I know God is trustworthy with my heart. I know He will guide and protect me even when I don't see a way through. For now, I will live my life in a way that will honor my Dad's memory and he will live on in my heart, until we are together again.
I plan to go pick out a pink crabapple tree and plant it outside my window. I will add a Personalized Memorial Tree Plaque, made here at Weathered Raindrop in his honor. I know he is always near.
I hope my words may have helped someone feel less alone today. Please remember God loves you and He is always near.