Another (almost) late post, but it is 11:00pm on Saturday evening as I write this, so all is not lost. It’s been seven days since I wrote here, seven days since I told you how my father passed. Seven more days to try and process the emotions, of checking on my mother and spending time with her, checking on my children to make sure they are dealing as they need to and seven more days of denying myself the necessary tears to release the pain.
I’m not ready yet, though many of you will say I must. You’ll shake your heads, sigh and fret, “now, Candy, that’s not the way”. Funny, I heard that in my dads voice. Whatever you all may feel for my lack of process, perhaps take comfort in the fact that this IS my process. I absorb, observe and analyze my emotions.
The emotions of others, the process of others, become more my concern than my own process. The others need me more than I need to feel my own tears. They’ll come in time, I’m sure, when I’m ready to breathe again. When I can look at my mother without feeling terror in my heart, terror that I never felt until this week. When I can look at her and not think how short time really is.
A few days ago, we went shopping, had a nice lunch out and returned home and she fell coming up the walk to my house. Just a fall, lost her balance, landed on her butt. But in that instance, I lost everything I had ever known. I saw her fall and my world stopped.
My brain conjured up a broken neck, a fractured rib suddenly piercing her lung, a stray tree branch piercing through her chest. I saw her eyes go cold and glassy. I heard nothing but white noise in my ears and saw the darkness rushing to greet me. Tears almost spilled from my eyes as I rushed to her side, trying to hide the thousand images of her dying, trying to shake the darkness from my brain. She was fine. Absolutely fine, a bit sore, probably a bruise but fine. I was not.
Inside, I fell apart, while I continued smiling and helping her in the house. Inside, my brain was going into shutdown mode and the tears were pouring down my face, terror had struck deep in my heart and I just wanted to break down completely, but on the outside, I kept smiling.
Losing my father in the instant we had lost him, has fully changed my perspective on life and death, on the time that we feel is ours, the time that we so arrogantly think is “ours”. Its not. It’s short and borrowed and never, ever promised. There are no guarantees in this life, no promises, save one. We shall live and we will die. That’s it.
What we do with the time in between is the only thing that matters. What we do, how we live, how we treat each other and how we treat ourselves, is all that matters. I’ve learned that, deep down I knew that, but I was still arrogant with “my time”. I can do better and I’m resolved to do better.
The next thing I have learned is what I want. During the funeral, people kept asking if they could help, if they could do anything, if I wanted anything. The obvious answer is, “well, I want my father back.” My spoken response was always, “Thank you but I’m alright. There’s nothing I want or need.” But you know what, there is something I want.
The first thing I want is for everyone that has in any way acknowledged the passing of my father to know how truly appreciated they are, by myself, my mother and the entire family. Your kindness, your words, your cards, hugs, tears and gifts of food were all much needed and very much appreciated.
The second thing I want is for all of you to continue to acknowledge that we are grieving, that we are missing a huge part of ourselves, that we are still crying even as these days slowly turn into weeks and then months. Pick up the phone in two weeks and call us. Send a letter to my mom, if she is who you know. Send my daughters a text message to check in if they are who you know.
Stop by my brothers house and tell him a favorite memory that you have of our family or our dad. We need your memories, your stories. We need to hear it, need to know that he will be missed in the lives of others. If two weeks has passed, pick up the phone again, send another message. If you forget and three months pass, it’s okay, give us a call then. We would love to hear from you.
When my brother died twenty years ago, what stood out most was the silence. The first few weeks our house was full of visitors. Alex was well loved and is still deeply missed. But the silence was deafening after a month or two. The visits stopped, the phone didn’t ring, few barely spoke his name. It was like he ceased to exist. My parents struggled with this silence as did I and my brother.
This time, I’m asking, let it be different. Don’t go silent. Don’t disappear. Don’t forget his name. Share my father with us, your memories, your laughter, your good times and we will share ours. Together we will cry, and together we will grieve what we held so dear. Together we can beat the silence. This is what I want.
I’ll leave you with this, a favorite verse from a favorite poem by Dylan Thomas:
“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. “
My ask of you is simple, do not let Michael go gently into that good night. Let us all rage against the dying of his light. Bring your memories, keep his light alive, with us and for us.