I arrived home this past weekend. My childhood home. The home where I spent many happy summers with my Dad and Grandpa. The home where I have always felt at peace. The home where I get my grounding. Even though the house doesn’t resemble the home I spent so much time in as a youth, I still get that same calming feeling as soon as I pull in the driveway. This home is also the place where my beloved father and grandfather passed on from this world. So, to me, it is much more than a house or even a home but where last year I was able to spend the last moments of my father’s life with him.
Dad left this world on June 22, 2014 at about 6:10 p.m. He was surrounded by his two daughters. We’d said all we needed in the days before. Were we ready? Absolutely not. Not even remotely. We were 30 and 35 years old. But, I will say we were glad he was no longer suffering.
Our hearts broke the moment we realized he took his last breath. We sobbed, we got angry and then we proceeded to make the phone calls that we had on our list for when he passed. It seemed our family arrived in seconds though I know it was longer.
The next day I got up and started on the lists I had made before he passed. I knew I ‘d never remember what I needed to do and I was glad for my notebook with all my notes. We picked out flowers, delivered his suit, and made last minute decisions. We’d made the bulk of the funeral decisions even before he passed away. We also hung an American flag on every pole on our street in tribute to him. People arrived to put up tents in our yard to host the people who would come to see us. Food started arriving to feed everyone that night. We then spent 4 hours greeting the many, many people who walked through the doors to give us their condolences. I don’t remember half of that night.
I don’t remember much of the visitation at the funeral home. I put on a brave face. I continued to act like I was in control of everything. I even told the minister he was not allowed to talk more than 11 minutes. My eulogy was 11 minutes and no one could talk longer than me.
The day of his funeral is a blur. I managed to get through his eulogy. I said my goodbyes at the church. They closed the casket. I made it through the playing of taps, the salute and the presentation of the American flag to me. I went to the dinner that was prepared for us. I hugged people. I smiled. I once again acted like I was in control.
A dear friend told me I would come to a point in this process it may be right after his death or it might be months or even years later where I’d have the sudden realization that the world is still spinning, but my world has stopped spinning and it will feel like hitting a brick wall. One year from his death and I am at that brick wall. All the decisions have been made. There are no more to make. I don’t know what to do with myself.
I am no longer in control…I am finally feeling the deep, deep grief and loss that I would not let myself feel last year as I honored my Dad by taking care of everything I could as my final responsibility to him.
And now, what do I do?
The pain of loss and grief have no timeline. There are no rules for how to live a life without your loved one. Some days are manageable and others it seems the pain only gets worse. Each individual has a right to walk the path as they need. But, I also know I have to move past the wall. I can’t stay in limbo. However, as I move on I will do so with intention. I will live intentionally. I’ve come to embrace this phrase as it was spoken to me by someone else who is figuring out how to create a meaningful world after loss. I have so many purposes in life as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, friend, teacher and with each role I can create a meaningful relationship.
But, it does feel like my world has stopped spinning and it feels very hard to think about this new path that will not include the guidance of my Dad. His death marks two distinct phases of my life. I think it is significant, at least in my mind, that I am feeling all of this at the time we mark a year of his passing. It is yet another chapter in a book that is half written.
I will live with meaning. I will live with purpose. I will live with intention. And, I hear my Dad yelling in my head, “Loosen up–laugh–slow down–just relax” and I will do all of those things too.