My stepdad passed away seven years ago today. It was easily the worst moment of my life and losing Dad changed me so profoundly that I’ve never bounced back to the person I was when he was alive. There’s a song by Mat Kearney called Closer to Love and it touches me deeply. The following lyrics so specifically encapsulate the anguish I went through- what probably most of us go through- when we’ve been shocked into grief:
She got the call today
One out of the gray
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away
She said she didn’t believe
It could happen to me
I guess we’re all one phone call
From our knees…
Some of us are the walking dead- part of us died when our loved one passed away. We’ll never recover. We’ll never be the same. Maybe some of us even long for the last breath that will send us into the unknown abyss that is the Other Side just so we can be reunited with our loved one. Just so we can hear their voice one more time. Feel their arms around us one more time. Tell them we love them one more time. Please, just one more time…
In the midst of pain and grief come the memories of happy moments we have spent with our loved one(s). Those memories are like a beckoning light, propelling us forward into the future while conversely pulling us back to the more peaceful moments of the past. I wrote blogs many years ago and today I read the one below and it’s so very bittersweet. If you knew my father you know he was a character. And he was funny. And sometimes neurotic. I wrote the blog the day after having dinner with him and my mom at their house. I wrote it because I thought the conversation was hysterically funny. But now I realize perhaps that blog was funny only to me. Funny because I knew my father and his idiosyncrasies and his nuances and I loved his quirks as much as I loved him.
Do you have a happy memory of a loved one who is no longer with us? A funny memory? A beautiful memory? Dwell on it, let it flood your broken heart and fill you up. Write the memory down in a journal, or tell it to a close friend or share it here if you feel led. We’re all in this thing called life together and, as Mat Kearney goes on to say:
For all the tears you’ve cried
You’ve been way too strong now for all your life
I’m gonna get there soon
You’re gonna be there too
Cryin’ in your room
Prayin’ Lord come through
We’re gonna get there soon…
My mom has always had a crush on Carl Weathers- the actor who played Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies.
At dinner last night my dad brought up dying. Not dying in general- but dying himself. We are not sure if he does this because he likes to tease us with an edge of the macabre or simply because he thinks it’s funny. Over the years Mom and I have tried to deter him from death-talk to no avail. A simple, “I’ll see you next week, Dad,” is usually responded to with, “If the Lord don’t take me home and the creek don’t rise.”
So there we were in the middle of a nice dinner and out of the blue Dad says, “Nope. Not if I’m dead. I could be dead tomorrow.”
Mom and I rolled our eyes at each other. Then she sort of nudged me and I realized she had a new diversion tactic.
Mom: Dead tomorrow? Gosh, well then I guess I’m free to date!
Dad: Sure! I’ll be dead. Go for it, honey.
Mom tried another avenue: Dating will be fun. Of course I will probably be serious with someone fairly soon, I’m not going to just date around.
I nodded encouragingly.
Mom: So that means Chelly will have a new daddy!
Dad: What?!! A new daddy??? There’s no such thing as a NEW DADDY!!! Once you’re a daddy you’re a daddy for LIFE.
Dad’s face was all mottled and he looked ready to punch something.
Me: Well, Dad, if Mom is allowed to date then I’m allowed to have a new daddy, right?
Dad (pounding on the table): NO! In the wedding vows you say “til death do us part” but there are no vows as a parent!
(As a side note, Dad absolutely adores my two dogs, Humphrey and Murphy. He refers to them as his “granddogs” and calls himself Pappy whenever they’re around.)
Back at dinner, Mom is chortling, Dad is in a state of frustrated frenzy and Humphrey & Murphy are watching the floor below the dinner table in desperate hope of falling food.
Me: I guess if I have a new daddy then the doggies will have a new pappy too.
Mom: Oh, yes! That’s right.
I thought Dad might blow a gasket.
Dad (thundering): Humphrey & Murphy will NOT have a new pappy!!!
Me to Humphrey & Murphy: You’d better start referring to him as Pappy #1 so there’s no confusion after he’s dead.
Me waggling my eyebrows at Mom: And Mom, will there be a Pappy #2 and a Pappy #3 down the line too?
Mom: Well, goodness, I guess you never know. I might just go wild and crazy with my new freedom!
Me: Oooooh, and maybe there will be a Pappy Weathers!!!!
Mom squealed with delight.
Dad (roaring): That’s enough!!! Here I am not even cold in the grave and you think it’s funny.
We both looked at him pointedly and he finally caught on.
Dad (huffing): Well, you’re going to be REAL sorry when you wake up tomorrow and you find out I died overnight. This whole conversation will make you feel guilty.
I kissed him when I left that night and called him the next morning.
He answered his cell phone: Hello?
Me: Hi, Dad, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t pass on in your sleep.
Dad (sarcastically): You sound very concerned. Were you just holding your breath while the phone was ringing?
Dad: You didn’t even bother to call Mom and ask if I was dead. You knew I’d answer the phone.
Me: Dad, you’ve gotta stop with the morbid talk. Stop being so fatalistic.
Dad: What does fatalistic mean?
He really didn’t know what it meant. If he asked me what it meant now I’d tell him it meant he was incredibly silly and slightly deranged and absolutely hysterical and I wouldn’t have him any other way. If I could just have one more memory with him. Please, just one more…
If you’re reading this and you are grieving also, know you are not alone. We have each other. Grief doesn’t have to be lonely. And memories, just like mine, can be shared.
Oh it’s your life
Oh it’s your way
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Cryin’ out now
From so far away
You pull me closer to love…