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I promise we’re almost ready to return to regularly scheduled programming (i.e. equal parts educational posts, shoe reviews, and me lamenting about how much I love/hate ultramarathons). But before returning to “normal”, I have to share a few words about how very strange this transition feels.
Flying home yesterday was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do all week. Harder than keeping a smile on my face while relatives, friends, and old neighbors that I haven’t seen in decades hugged me and told me how sorry they were for my loss. Harder than going through my dad’s closet and running my fingers across his favorite L.L. Bean flannel shirts that he has owned as long as I can remember. Harder than putting together and labeling a scrapbook for my Mom to share at Dad’s celebration of life party, seeing my Dad’s smiling face full of life staring back at me page after page.
Because flying home was, for the lack of a less wildly inappropriate term in this case, the final nail in the coffin.
Dad is gone.
Yesterday I sat on my couch in my own home, crying the tears I’ve held in all week in the safety of my husbands arms. I know I didn’t have to hold back the tears last week. I know I didn’t have to be the strong one. I didn’t necessarily do it on purpose, but subconsciously I felt compelled to hold it together, for reasons I’ll probably never know. I felt the need to crack jokes every chance I got, the kind my Dad would have found hilarious. I joked relentlessly about the “sympathy snacks” that kept showing up at Mom’s door in the form of gift baskets. I danced in Mom’s kitchen and made wise cracks about how Mom can watch Dancing with the Stars on repeat, and now no one can tell her otherwise.
But when I got home, the finality of this situation hit and the tears came pouring out. I told Geoff that I am trying like hell to mourn the “healthy” way, whatever that means, because I don’t want this to be something I bottle up, something that will negatively impact me for weeks and months to come. I want to acknowledge my grief, I want to process my heartache, and I want to move forward. Because life goes on, right? His response took me by surprise, when he said “Honey, I fully expect this to be something that will take you at least a year to get through.”
A year? I was thinking a week or two. Not that I’ll never NOT mourn the death of my father, but more so, that I’ve got to move on with my life. I’ve got kids to raise, a job to do, dreams to chase. I can’t live in this feeling of numbness and heartache forever. I can’t spend my days wondering what song or TV show or bumper sticker on a passing car is going to bring on the next wave of tears.
But I guess he’s not wrong.
People die everyday. And everyday, the strangers you pass on the street or in the aisles of the grocery store are all fighting their own inner battles or heartache, the ones that perhaps you don’t see in their outer appearances, unless you look really closely at the dark circles under their eyes or the way their smile feels somewhat forced. I’m not the first to go through the death of a parent, and I certainly won’t be the last.
Yet when it’s your heartache, when it’s your loved one who has died, it feels like YOUR world stands still. And it feels so strange to see that the world around you is still spinning, that the people around you are still functioning and going through day to day motions like nothing has changed. Because for them, nothing has changed. It’s such an odd feeling of disconnect. You know, deep down, that this feeling is temporary. You know, deep down, that you have to eventually jump back in. You HAVE to jump back in. But almost like trying to hop on a merry-go-round that’s spinning at maximum speed, taking the leap can be terrifying.
I believe that there are certain events in everyone’s lives that are like tattoos on the soul. They are permanent. They will forever alter who you are as a person. My father’s sudden and unexpected death is certainly one of them. I will never be the same. However, I’m hoping that this particular change will all be for the good.
I know that’s what he’d want.
This week was a reminder that life is not infinite. We all know this. We all say it frequently in a wishy washy motivational speech sort of way. But when’s the last time you were slapped in the face with a closed fist by this reality? It hurts. In a strange way, I’m grateful for the reminder.
This week was a reminder of how important family is, and how I need to spend more time with the ones that really matter. A “too little, too late” reminder in the case of my dad, but a reminder none the less.
And lastly, this week was a reminder of how crucial it is to fearlessly and unapologetically pursue what makes you happy. Spend less time on the mind-numbing things that don’t positively contribute to your life, or unnecessarily take time away from the people and things that do matter.
My greatest fear is that when I do dive back into the throes of the “real world” that I’ll slowly forget these things that my Dad’s death taught me. That among the school pickup lines, and clients, and bills due, and housework that needs to be done, and all of the things that cloud our minds and fill our days…I’ll slowly forget my Dad. I’ll slowly forget the sting of reality that made me – made all of us – promise to start doing things differently. And one day, something similar will happen again, and we’ll all stop and think “damnit, I squandered time that I wasn’t actually ever promised once again”.
And I suppose that’s part of what makes this transition so hard.
It’s at this part of the blog where I post something motivational or profound, about holding your head up, living fearlessly, yaddi yaddi ya. For once, I have nothing. I’m not sure if I’ll be charging forward or taking timid baby steps, but I do know that forward is the direction I’ve got to go.
Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with the most obscure song from the 1970’s in my head. The song as a whole is a cheesy love song, has nothing to do with loss, and I haven’t heard it in YEARS. Yet on repeat, in my head, was the lyric:
“Close the window, calm the light
And it will be all right…”
Over and over those words repeated, until I fell back asleep, feeling unexpectedly at peace, for the first time in 12 days.
It will be all right.