Monday, March 12, 2012

Surrounded by His Loving Family

My friend CH lost his dad over the weekend.  He has never seen my blog, so I know he won't read this letter I am going to write to him, which is OK.  I'm writing because I know I will never be able to say these things to him.  They would come out sounding all advice-y, which I don't like.  Plus, CH and I seldom get uninterrupted time to chat.

I am not absolutely certain, but I suspect that his father's death will be more difficult for him because of several things:  the family is deeply Balkanized; he was a primary caregiver for his parents for a time; he was not ready to let his father go;  he hadn't seen him in a while; and he was far away, overseas on business, when his dad died.

Maybe this is a Utah phenomenon, but it is a big deal in the local obituaries that, "so-and-so passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loving family".  This particular family has what I guess I would call a formal streak, a sense of ceremony and heritage.

My long-time blog buddies may recall that my dad's death two years ago was the exclamation point at the end of a shitty year:  Simon's botched knee surgery and long hospitalization; my cancer and resulting surgeries; then Dad's illness and death.  When Dad got sick, I wanted so much to see him once more, but I didn't get to.  It bothered me for a long time, and I still think about it a lot.

Dear CH,

I'm sorry about the loss of your dad, and I'm a little extra sore about it, because I still miss my dad a lot.  I am privately concerned that the circumstances of the last couple months and the fact that you didn't get to see your dad again will add to your sadness.

Because of my health and my family's attempts to coordinate what would be the most helpful to my mom, I didn't get to see my dad before he died.  Missed him by three days.

My point is that I got over it.  I was partially aided in this by my aunt Marian, who scoffed at the notion.  "Oh, brother!  This myth about the loving family, gathered around the deathbed of the patriarch!  Why should the patriarch care?  He doesn't!  Most of the time, he's not even conscious!"  Wow.  Strong language from a little old lady.

She's right.  I told myself, "But I wanted him to know at the end how much I loved him."  He knew.  Your dad also knew. 

And I see now that all this last minute stuff is nothing.  What does it matter in light of all that came before?  A whole shared lifetime, which completely overshadows the one last look or word.

And here is my final thought: one which has only begun evolving in my mind.  So far, this thought is taking shape as, "the best is yet to come". Now that some time has passed, I look to the future of my relationship with my father with enormous happiness.  All of the things I admired most, I adopt as my own.  I used to miss my Dad's friendliness.  But why miss it when I can HAVE it? Now, when there's a choice between starting a conversation  with a stranger or letting the moment pass, I try to start the conversation.  My dad had a real sense of joie de vivre.  Every time that I choose laughter and make life fun for myself I think, "Well, yeah, he's gone; but I picked the pockets of his character and got a double handful of everything I wanted."

My inheritance!

I'm sorry for your loss.  And I'm REALLY sorry about the anger and conflict that are going to muddy your waters, when you try so hard to keep them clear.  It doesn't seem fair - that you should have to sail such a stormy sea.  When I see you, I'll just hug you and say, "I'm so sorry about your dad," like everyone else. But in my heart, I'll wish I were preachy enough to say, "Your dad knew you loved him.  He didn't need anything more from you than what you gave him.  And after a period of missing him, you can dip into your inheritance and use it to build your future."

1 comment:

  1. Yep, sometimes I say something supportive to a friend but really I would like to write them a whole list of supportive and wise words which sometimes doesn't seem appropriate at the time. Or we just don't get round to that big, long, wise chat.