Thursday, March 24, 2016
We are told to lean on God in times of pain, or worry or stress. There are several passages in the Bible about it, my favorite is Psalm 18:2. And it's true, we should. I have wept many times in the lap of Jesus wrapped in his arms. The way to get through grief is in everyone's mouths when you tell them someone close to you died.
"It will be okay."
"It will get easier."
"Just take one day at a time."
What no one tells you though, is even if you take it one day at a time, the pain doesn’t subside, it just gets easier to compartmentalize. It gets easier to choke back tears and smile when your entire body is really only wanting to convulse in tears and heart break. No one tells you the truth. The truth that losing someone you have deeply loved your entire life, that losing your hero is one of the most tragic pains you will ever feel. Losing a parent. It’s not for the weak of heart.
Here I sit on the eve of the 1 yr anniversary of that horrible 11:00pm phone call that shattered my world forever. That phone call everyone knows will come one day, but you are just never ready for it to actually be your turn to pick it up. Hearing my mom’s broken voice as she choked out the words, “dad is gone.” will forever be etched into my memories. Knowing full well no matter how much it was hurting me, no matter how much I would suffer over the next several days as we made arrangements and ordered the programs and looked through pictures, no matter how much I was hurting, I knew that my mom would be in a pain that is so intense and so deep, she would feel like drowning in it.
Telling the kids was hard. I could barely get the words out. Seeing the silent tears and hearing the audible sobs, knowing they had lost their beloved Papa. Those are sounds you can never unhear. I don’t really remember much after that until we pulled up at my mom and dad’s house. When I faced that front door, knowing as soon as I walked through it, I would instantly feel his absence from this earth, from our lives for good. The finality of it all. It was never going to be the same. Nothing would ever be the same again.
I walked through that front door and wrapped my arms around my mom and sobbed with her for a few moments. In those moments I remember just wanting nothing more than to hear it was all a bad misunderstanding. He was really going to be okay and would be walking through the door at any moment. But the stark reality of it was, that was never going to happen. I know that he had left the house that night to hang out with some of his friends, and he would never return. He was gone. Just gone. And none of us got to say good-bye. We never got to make sure he knew how important he was to us.
I always made sure to hug him and tell him I loved him before we parted ways, but in those moments you wonder… did he really know? Did he know how much he was loved? Did he know how much we needed him? How much I depended on him to be my North Star? He was the man who helped guide all of my most important life decisions along with the ones that may have seemed meaningless, but I always sought his wisdom. Now, I would never be able to pick up the phone again and ask his opinions or his advice. Now I would never get those text messages again that told me where he was at the moment, usually waiting on mom someplace. I would never hear his laugh or look into his eyes. I would never be able to wrap my arms around him again and tell him I love him.
I think about all the things we no longer have because he’s gone. But I also think about all the things we do have because he was in our lives. We have our inside jokes and all the things he said or did that made us laugh so hard. We have the memories of camping and fishing and swimming. Of playing Croquet and watching him so he didn’t cheat! I have the mental photographs of him in his police uniform and I can still hear his squeaky leather duty belt that held his gun and handcuffs and radio. I can still smell his Old Spice cologne and his KIWI shoe polish. I can see him in the kitchen making waffles on the morning after Thanksgiving alongside my daughter as he taught her how to make eggs. I can hear his voice as he read The Night Before Christmas. I can see him cutting the ham (that he more than likely was trying a new recipe for) at Easter dinner and teasing me because his batch of Grandma’s rolls came out better than mine. WAY better. I can see him sitting outside barbecuing and enjoying a cold beer. Reminiscing about the Coast Guard days with my uncle Gary. Or retelling his favorite childhood stories, about his old dog Major or the days of hell-raising he did with his best buddies. He loved to tell stories and I loved to listen. We also have memories of him singing along to his favorite songs. I got my love of music from him, at least I like to think so. I knew all the oldies, all the old country, Hank, George, Merle, Waylon and even Patsy. I knew them all and could sing along with him. He was also the only other person I knew besides me that would break out in songs when someone would say something that reminded us of a line from a song. I also remember all the lessons he taught me, all the times he was patient and calm, but stern.
I miss him every single day without fail. He is never far from my thoughts. I try to picture his face, and listen for his voice. I try to live my life in a way that would hopefully make him proud. Because there was nothing that meant more to me than to know he was proud of me. I like to picture him in Heaven with my grandparents and his brother Pat. I know he is up there looking down on us. Especially mom. I know he watches her to make sure she’s okay. The love he had for her was something you only read about in books. He looked at her with such love and it was obvious he was happy just being in her presence.
What I have learned in this year is that the pain of losing my daddy runs deep and it has knocked the wind out of me. I have learned that my grief is valid and it’s okay to still cry at the drop of a hat, a year later. Because I do. Even if I have to sneak away to the bathroom at work, or behind sunglasses in the car, it’s okay to cry and miss him. It’s okay to feel it and walk myself through that grief in any way I need to. It’s okay. I have also learned that I am strong. That my role in this family has changed. I had to walk through some ugly and not so fun stuff with my mom, like getting paperwork in order and seeing her make plans for when she passes. She made sure I knew what to do and what her wishes were. It was hard, and normally I would shy away from it, push it away, but I faced it head on with her. We got each other through the roughest few months and continue to pull each other through the really hard days. I’ve learned how to care for my mom and have spent every Sunday with her for the past year, which has made us closer than ever. I have learned how strong SHE is and have watched her walk through her grief and make no apologies for it. I’m proud of her. I’m proud of us.
I don’t know what this next year will bring us. I just know my daddy will not be far from my thoughts and heart. I know we will get through it as a family and be stronger for it.