My dad died in November. It happened to be on my kid’s birthday. It happened to be a few days before Thanksgiving. It happened to be at the start of the month or so of chaos that is the holiday season – the season filled with shopping and class parties and band concerts and end of the year reports and then New Years and then omigod it’s January. Then, it happened to be January, and now it happens now to be just a few days before his funeral.
Make no mistake, I am very aware of the fact that my father is gone. But my energy associated with this event so far has been practical by necessity, rather than strictly emotional. You in the unlucky club of having to handle the business end of losing someone will recognize this space. It’s the bubble. Compartmentalizing for the sake of functionality. Moving forward not so much to avoid the grief, but because the grief must coexist with more mundane things like deciding who will get who from the airport and if there will be enough scrambled eggs at the funeral breakfast and if the dogs got fed. Sure, you can and will break down in tears, but you’ll still need to write the obituary, so cry … but cry and type, sister. Cry and call the cemetery. Cry and call the probate court. Cry and fax the death certificate.
Lots of people have discussed the simultaneous doing and feeling that comes after a death, especially on the internet. There’s a lovely article by John Pavlovitz that gets shared a lot about this strange bubble, the space where you’re in grief but also at the grocery store. A woman on Twitter explained my favorite analogy about grief, the “ball in the box,” that shows how your grief button gets hit unexpectedly and potently. I also like this widely-shared Reddit wisdom about grief in relation to 100 foot waves. These are all great reads and filled with the deep experience of humans who have been there. But I think my favorite words come from one of my neighbors. She was getting her eyebrows waxed before her dad’s funeral in a moment of self care, and she heard a song on the radio that brought her to tears. The lady waxing her eyebrows unknowingly apologized. “You’re not usually this sensitive,” she said. Yeah … “not usually this sensitive.” That just about sums it up.
So far this week, I have not cried at delivering my dad’s ashes to the cemetery office, but I cried at picking the right black top to wear. I have not cried at talking to the officiant for the service, but I’ve cried as I folded 200 programs, reminded again and again that this little piece of paper sums up my dad's whole life. I have not cried at the fact that our family and friends are coming from all over because the funeral is this weekend, but I cried at the sight of a cough drop on the floor of my dad's car – a small, tangible artifact that he was here and now he’s not. There will be a million of these, a million little songs on the radio that hurt more than me getting my eyebrows waxed. But check out how neatly those programs are folded. Look at that lovely guest book I picked. Enjoy the scrambled eggs at the funeral breakfast … we’ll order more if you need them. Those are my little offerings of love right now. And of grief.
1/21/2020 05:38:23 pm
I find myself already grieving and filling my days with similar tearful mundane acts knowing that the days are limited... There's no way around grief.
1/21/2020 06:13:28 pm
No way out but through, as the saying goes. I am sending some love you and your hubby's way.
1/21/2020 09:13:38 pm
Amidst the tears that may have come between writing and crying, this is such a beautiful and real and raw piece of writing that I know so many will find comfort in. Thinking about that cough drop brought me to tears. I remember when my father-in-law died, Fran said that he just couldn’t believe he would never see him again. But as the universe would have it, he actually shows up everywhere all the time. I know Al will for you as well. Thinking about you and always grateful to read your words. xo
1/21/2020 10:49:27 pm
Thanks for the big love, Jes. Hope Fran’s dad and Big Al can conspire to leave us some strategic cough drops to make us smile.
1/21/2020 09:43:03 pm
Oh my heart, my heart, cousin. This is beautiful and exactly right. Grief and love, love and grief.
1/21/2020 10:52:33 pm
Love and grief is what makes the world go round — and what makes us glad to be writers. Right?
1/22/2020 12:18:38 pm
I don't know what I would do if I couldn't process my grief in words. And what's that quote about grief being love with no place to go? Glad we can direct some of the grief love toward each other in this time. Glad it can spill over our family like water over the edge of a glass. <3
Kristi A Loverde
1/22/2020 09:51:54 am
Al also died just days short of our 11th anniversary, which of course was Thanksgiving weekend. We are having his memorial at Dunwoody Country Club where we got married.
1/23/2020 10:31:05 am
Thinking about you. I'm coming up on 7 years for my husband and sometimes the grief still socks me in the gut. PS: That program stands for a microcosm of your dad's life.
11/15/2022 05:57:58 am
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Hi. I'm Amanda Dobbs.