Losing a parent is something we all face. It’s a painful, a personal type of grief, that we must all find a way to internalize and get past the emotionally crippling feeling, and then to live with the emptiness that fills our chest and lives. There is something so hard and lonely about knowing that the person who loved you more than anyone, the person you knew would do anything to protect you, is no longer in this world. And I don’t think there’s one way, or a right way to deal with that feeling. Everyone deals with this kind of grief differently.
I recently lost my father, and I’m coping by doing a lot of remembering. Taking a stroll down memory lane, reliving the good times. Letting a memory of laughter soothe the ache. And there was a lot of laughter where my father was concerned. Like the time we visited a casino when he sat beside me while I played poker slots, and when the option for double or nothing would appear, he’d hit it before I could decline. I’d say, “Why did you do that?”
He’d laugh and say, “Look, I just won you twenty dollars, and when I didn’t win he’d blame it on me for not holding my mouth right, or because I didn’t curl my toes. Before long, we had attracted a huge crowd all laughing with us, waiting to hear what crazy thing Dad would say next. It was an example of how people love to be around happy people and laughter.
I will never forget the time he had open heart surgery, and I stayed to take care of him for two weeks. He had a heart a shaped pillow and he would have me come close, he’d put the pillow on his chest and I would press against him so he could cough. This one time he sat on the edge of the sofa, I stood right in front of him. He had it bad and for several minutes, coughing and dealing with the pain that came with it. I had tears in my eyes, knowing he was hurting. I would lean my head down and say over and over again, “I’m sorry, Dad. I’m sorry.”
He managed to say, “Christie, I need to tell you something.”
“It’s . . . hard to say.”
My chest filled with emotion so tight that it hurt, I waited for him to tell me how much he appreciated that I was there. How much he loved me. Then in a raspy voice, he finally got the words out. “You need a breath mint.”
I burst out laughing. He started laughing, and that hurt him even more, so he told me to leave the room. “Now. Get out. Leave.” When I walked back in, he’d take one look at me and start laughing again. I spent the next few hours going in and out of the room.
When he was in the hospital once, he told me in his deep tone, “You have to be a real man to deal with this kind of pain.” Then he cut his twinkling blue eyes up at me and said, “I’m not a real man.”
We laughed our way through heart surgeries, knee surgeries, lung surgeries, and the time he almost took his leg off with a saw. The time he fell off a ladder. There was the time he got shot in the stomach with a nail gun. Someone once accused him of doing things just to get to me to come to Alabama to visit.
I loved that man. And even more importantly I knew I was loved.
But in between smiling at those memories, I will have those brief moments, sometimes only seconds when I forget he’s gone and I think of him as still here, still alive. I want to tell him something, call to check and see if how he’s feeling, but when I remember he’s gone, I tear up and feel that wave of emotion that I thought I’d moved past.
I know it’s going to take time. It’s a process. It’s a part of life. A universal feeling that most all of us must face.
I looked up quotes and inspirational saying about grief, and I keep them close by to read. Below are a few that have touched me the most.
Those we love never truly leave us. There are things that death cannot touch. — Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss
“Remember that people are only guests in your story—the same way you are only a guests in theirs—so make sure the chapters are worth reading.” ― Lauren Klarfeld