Monday, November 9, 2015

Losing Dad

It's been a week and a half since we lost dad.  A blink of an eye.  An eternity.  Someone asked if it is getting more 'real' as the days go on, but it almost seems more impossible.  He's been in my life for 41 years, and all of a sudden...he's somewhere else.  Some mysterious, other place that doesn't have a phone line or even an email address.  I'm not worried about him, though.  He was ready and excited to make that trip.  I mean, he wasn't hoping to leave us just yet, but from everything he expressed in conversations and in the letter he left us, he wasn't afraid.

It's what he left us with, though, that has me humbled.  He is physically gone, but his love feels more tangible to me now than ever before.  I honestly feel that real love continues, and continues to make a difference.  The thoughts and memories of him that came flooding into my head and heart since that difficult phone call from my brother have all been of his tenderness and his support.  The overwhelming response from those that knew him were to exclaim about his generosity, both of spirit and his material gifts.  I guard the last few notes he sent in the mail and by email for their encouragement to me as a wife, mother and person.  All the things I've read of his over the past week (and let this be a lesson to leave nothing laying around you don't want someone to see after you are gone!) have shown me the generous heart of my dad.  All these things led to a celebration of his life on Saturday at the funeral, regrets faded and healed.

This is only the beginning, I imagine, of a complex healing process.  He said in his letter to us that he was concerned about the hole that his dying might leave in each of us.  He wanted us to grieve, but not excessively.  He wanted to provide for us, and as I understand it, not just monetarily.  The legacy of love he left between my siblings and those closest to him is that provision.  I've experienced a deepening tenderness between us and his partner and her family over this past week.  I could regret that we weren't open to those relationships sooner, but I refuse to waste my energy on regrets, (and I of any of his children will certainly have the most.)  I watched as my mother, his wife of 41 years, embraced Nancy, his partner over the last 12 years, for the first time, each grieving their own heartache, but grieving together.  I heard stories of his desire to connect with me which I rebuffed or didn't understand during my formative years (of which I'm sure I'm still in), and I feel convicted.  But I don't feel his displeasure or reproach anymore.  I feel his deep love and it is healing to me, even while I grieve.

As my brother said so beautifully at the service, we all had our unique relationships with my dad.  In an instant, in a week, for the rest of my life, I suddenly valued and will continue to value mine with my dad, with all it's bumps and bruises, laughter, misunderstandings and moments of connection.  I will relent more, and trust more in loved ones' motives, and learn to accept every part.  Our relationship was complicated during life, but in death, it has become a thing of clarity and comfort.  This is my experience thus far, and I'm sure it differs or resembles others' in little or big ways.  I'm sure, too, that the grieving process is long and labyrinthine, and there will be darker moments than today.  Thankfully, I have love, his legacy of love, through my family, and the people he surrounded himself with in life, to ultimately fill that hole that his death has most certainly left in my heart.