It has been a rough couple of days.

December 27th was the one year anniversary of Dad’s passing. Well…technically it was January 5th that he died, but he was never conscious again after his collapse on the 27th.

I wrote before about how Mom knew he was gone that first day (see here), and thus it has become the day of greatest significance to us.

She wanted to have a dinner out in honor of him, which we did. As we sat there at dinner I thought about how hard it is to comprehend that someone so unassuming and humble could have left such a big void at the dinner table. Our collective aching for his presence was as palpable as the cocktails we hoped would numb it.

Throughout the day I kept replaying what I was doing one year prior – I’d spent the day roller skating with friends and family, followed by a spaghetti dinner with the girls and their two buddies. The five of us sat down to watch The Princess Bride…the girls, their two friends, and me.

It is eerie to recall what a fun day it had been….

Before the call.

I don’t presume that everyone’s experience with remembering traumatic events is the same. I can only say that for me, I don’t remember it all in clear detail…the whole evening…nor the entire terrible week that followed.

Some details are exceptionally vivid, while the rest of it comes across in my memory as a permeating feeling or series of feelings, rather than a clear sequence of events.

I don’t remember the faces of the doctors and nurses, but I remember how I felt when they entered the room…comforted, or terrified, or angry.

When I think of that night it tends to raise my heart rate. I feel my chest constrict. Sometimes it nearly brings me to my knees, still.

The most vivid memory is of my brother Ryan’s voice on the other end of the phone. I knew it was him (caller ID), but his voice was contorted by the most gut wrenching chords of despair and pleading…

“What’s wrong with Dad?”

I knew nothing. I hadn’t been told yet. For a moment we took comfort that it must be a mistake.

How could I not know our lives had changed?

Moments later I knew the truth, and I was frantic to get there…to get to the hospital before he died…

What if I didn’t get there in time?

Little did I know I would have a week of purgatory to live through before saying goodbye to him; before kissing his warm cheek for the last time.

I have thought a lot about death and what I’d wish for if I’d gotten to choose.

Would I wish for…

A sudden death (so we wouldn’t have had the agony of hope)?

An extended illness (so we’d have had more time to prepare)?

Or would I have chosen the slow acceptance with which most of us were faced that last week – the week in which Dad’s heart, in the cruelest betrayal, continued to fuel his body, but not his brain?

After much deliberation,

I’ve decided it is all utter shit.

All of it. 

There’s no good way to lose a loved one. 

There’s no perfect scenario that is going to mitigate the shattering of your heart.

But…

My Dears,

It isn’t the dying that matters.

It’s the living.

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