Warning: This is not as lighthearted as most of my posts.
On Friday, my father passed away. Emotionally, my plate was already a little full, and this overflowed it. Over the days that followed our family gathered to remember his life and more importantly, celebrate it. Call us strange but we also celebrated his passing. It might help to understand that our father's mental health has been in steady decline for over two decades. Dementia struck this incredibly intelligent man much earlier than anyone would expect. My Daddy, and yes at 43 I still call him Daddy, was an incredible person and it was painful for all of us to watch him slip away over all those years. My siblings and I were all in agreement that we had already grieved his loss for years, but death is final. The days that followed made me realize that I had not already healed from losing him. I can only describe it this way, it was a like a wound that had nearly healed, scabbed over and nearly scarred, but his passing and the days that followed ripped that wound open and made it painful all over again.
My siblings and some of my father's siblings gathered together and shared our stories of him, many that somehow I had never heard before. We shared our grief and pain of those last 20 plus years that we watched him slip away from us. There were tears and there was laughter. Thankfully the laughter was far more plentiful than the tears. My siblings and I were the same way when we lost our mother several years ago. I almost felt sorry for the other people in the ICU waiting room who had to listen to us laugh, knowing we were all there with loved ones in the most dire medical conditions. But that's just how we deal with things, few tears and more laughter. My parents were Christians and believed in the afterlife, surely there was something better waiting for them on the other side of their suffering. We try not to dwell on their final painful days, which in my father's case were actually years and instead celebrate the part of their lives that were truly lived. We try to remind ourselves that without a little sorrow one cannot know real joy, and that life is short so make the most of every moment you have.
During the funeral yesterday, my brother stood to talk about our father and his famous phrases we had all heard growing up, and the meaning of them. He addressed all of our spouses too, and offered explanation of why my father's kids may be stubborn etc, but that we were also loyal etc and that all those qualities were learned from living our lives with our parents. It was the most beautiful memorial any of us had ever heard, and again there was laughter and a few tears.
In an earlier post I talked about the importance of making time to be with "your people". After a lunch together yesterday following the funeral, my Uncle Paul stood and addressed the party, he said that same thing in different words. Life is short, make time for the people who are important to you, hold hands not grudges.