I lost my dad a few months ago. After suffering two exhausting bouts of pneumonia in a year, he died at the age of 94. He was in Hospice House those last two weeks of his life, his wife and three daughters (I’m the youngest kid) around him. He knew we loved him and we knew he loved us; maybe at the end of life, that’s what really counts.
I’ve read lots of articles and books on grief. My life partner published a memoir about the loss of his wife of 42 years. He says some wise and profound things on the subject. But while there are similarities, everyone’s experiences with a death of a loved one are different. I’d like to write about a few of mine. Why in this forum and not in a personal journal? I guess because I would like to share what I’m feeling inside. One thing I’ve learned: grief is a lonely experience. No matter the support around you or others who have suffered the same loss, when it comes to mourning, you are pretty much on your own.
If reading this makes you uncomfortable–tough. Don’t read it then. It’s amazing the number of people whose personal motto seems to be, Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
That being said, I can understand the discomfort. Sometimes when friends, both casual and close, have expressed their sympathies to me about my father, I can barely murmur a quiet, “thank you,” and move on to another subject. It’s not so much because I’m uncomfortable as it is the feelings are too deep to be articulated. Death renders us speechless in more ways than one. It’s just too damn BIG.
Big. Yeah, I’ve thought about this a lot. Every daughter is a little girl inside when her dad dies. A girl’s father is the most powerful person in the world to her until she grows up and understands we’re all fallible. Well, I knew this intellectually, but when my dad left this world that little girl raised up inside me, stunned. The thought that her daddy, still all-powerful in her eyes, could succumb was just not possible. I know. Not rational. But that four-year old kid in me doesn’t understand logic and reason and probably never will no matter how much my 53 year old adult self argues with her.
Well, if death doesn’t humble you, what will? And to be honest, I’m still too much in shock to feel humble. I knew that my father was dying. I nursed him for a month at his bedside. I proclaimed to my partner that I was “ready” for him to let go. But I didn’t get the finality of it. And I sure wasn’t ready for it. That’s another thing I’m learning about death–it’s about as final as it gets.
I knew I would feel sad when my dad died. But I wasn’t expecting to feel so damn angry and irritable at a moment’s notice. I’m really not sure what I’m angry about. I guess just the fact that people have to die to begin with. It’s all so absurd–we’re here, then poof, we’re gone.
Since I work in retail and deal with the public, my tolerance level for human idiocy gets a workout pretty often. Lately, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to hold my tongue with customers. For example, the middle-aged and slightly drunk woman I just dealt with (I’m writing from work) who wanted a book she had heard about from a friend who “really knows how to pick em.”
Okay, what’s the name of the book?
I don’t know. Something “surge.”
What’s the book about?
I don’t know but I really want it. It’s supposed to be great and I want a good book. And my friend knows how to pick em.
Well, is it fiction? Nonfiction…
I think nonfiction. Surge…
I do some research on the internet and come up with a number of titles about the surge in the war in Iraq. Could this be what she is looking for?
Well, that sounds familiar. Try this–“shoals.” Type in shoals!
Okaaaay. And of course “shoals,” gets us no closer to identifying the book and I’m starting to lose the thin veneer of patience I walk around with these days. What is it with these people who want you to find a book but can’t tell you its title, author, or even subject matter? The amazing thing is, most of the time, I can find the desired book with bits and pieces of information I’m able to glean from the clueless customer (I’m good), but not in this case. The woman is nuts and she’s driving me that way, fast.
Waitwaitwait. I know! It’s “The Seasons,” something…something seasons, seasons something.
Hmmm, there are only, oh, a few thousand books or so with the word “seasons” in the title.
Are you sure you don’t recall what the books is about?
Nooooo…just that it’s supposed to be really, really good. My friend knows how to pick em. Never mind. Look up Infidel. That is a great book. I want that one! I have about four copies of it.
We don’t have the book. Well, that’s okay. She has about four copies of it already. Now what about “seasons…shoal…surge.”
But I’ve had enough. I tell her that I need more information. She says she’ll talk to her friend who knows how to pick em and get back with me. On her way out the door, I hear her confide to her boyfriend, “I didn’t think they’d be able to find it.” Lady, that is the most perceptive thing you’ve probably said all day.
Tolerance. I need more of it these days. Since my dad died, it’s been in short supply.
To be continued.