Life, Death, and Love

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Buckle up, this might be is a bit long.

The news this past week has been horrifying. I’ve been watching as much as I can with two young kids around, and my heart just breaks for those who have lost their loved ones. As with the Newtown tragedy, I have watched tearful relatives tell all of us about the speical qualities of the people they have lost, helping us understand the true depth of their loss a little better. And yet, as I watch these heart-broken relatives, I can’t help but to think that they would give anything to tell those words to their loved one, instead of to all of us on the sidelines. And maybe I think that way because I imagine that is how I would feel.

I’ve lost so many people that I have loved deeply that at times it doesn’t seem fair, as if life ever is. And sometimes I’ve dealt fairly well, and sometimes I’ve been a complete mess. And when I think back on those hard time I’ve come to realize that what I was really struggling with is that I didn’t have that chance to tell those people how much they meant to me. Before Melissa passed away last year, her family graciously allowed their house to be filled with people telling her goodbye. I was able to hold her hand, and talk to her, and thank her for being such a positive force in my life. And there were a steady stream of visitors doing the same, and it was sad in some ways, but it was also really amazing as well because what an amazing testiment to her life! My grandmother passed away the month prior, and due to the horrendous timing of my tumor ordeal, I feel like I completely missed out on spending time with her at the end. My Dad told me it wouldn’t have been for her, it would have been for me. He’s right. And so I wrote that blog post about my Grandmother and how wonderful she was, and I wrote it for me.

This is a VERY roundabout way of getting to my point, which is, I know longer want to wait to tell others what they mean to me. I selfishly want to make it easier on myself to cope one day. I want ALL of you to know how much I love you and appreciate you, and I’m going to be saying that more. But right now, I need to write a post for me, about my Dad.

In November of 2010, the phone rang at 2 in the afternoon and I picked up to hear my Mom’s distraught voice on the other end. And I had no idea what she was saying, but the panic had already settled into my gut. I had this awful feeling of deja vu from when Craig’s mother had called me just two years prior to let me know that Larry had suffered a heart attack. And within moments, this awful feeling was confirmed as Mom was able to get out that Dad had a massive heart attack and that he was in surgery. The drive to Topeka with my brother was one of the worst hours of my life (and there have been some really bad hours), both of us literally sick and shaking with fear, trying to console each other that the worst would not happen. Dad survived that day, and we all know now how incredibly lucky he is and we are all as well, because he sustained serious damage to his heart.

I talk to my Dad a lot on the phone, I always have. I’ve always been close to both of my parents, they raised Eric and I in a stable and loving home, and we were almost always poor but spoiled with attention and their time. The nature of my Dad’s job meant that he took the lead in a lot of the parenting duties, doing my hair in braids for school, being there when we got home, and looking after us when we were sick. In college I stayed close to home, despite my earlier threats to move across the country, and enjoyed growing closer with my parents now that I no longer viewed them as mean and heartless. To be fair, Dad got a pass on a lot of my more horrid behaviour as he was always so even-keel and hard to get riled up. And when he did ever get mad, I instantly knew I deserved it. He was the campus pastor at K-State for the Methodist Church at the time I was in college, and I attended UMCM weekly, though it took nearly a year for the other students to catch on that we were related. I met Craig there, and Dad predicted our relationship would happen before I ever did. He married us in 2004, in a ceremony that true to form was filled with heartful sentiment and the corniest jokes you could ever imagine.

As a pastor, he not only had the priveledge of uniting couples in marriage, but also the responsibility of memorializing those who had passed. He was, and is, remarkably gifted at this. He officiated the funeral of his own father, a man whom I had known only as drunk and reclusive. And what I will never forget is how he didn’t gloss over this, he talked about people for who they truly were- both their strengths and their faults. And this view of the complete person allowed us all to grieve in an honest way. There were many other difficult funerals to follow: my maternal aunt, grandfather and grandmother, and Dad’s own mother. Can you imagine? And in every case, he found the perfect way to help us towards closure. I tend to drown in sorrow and emotion after a loss, and throughout the years my Dad has been teaching me how to cope with loss in a healthier way. I’m a work in progress.

The past few years after his heart attack and susequent surgeries, Dad keeps bringing up in casual conversation that his heart isn’t going to hold out much longer. He discusses his prognosis the way you would the weather, in a matter-of-fact manner that has driven my brother and I crazy. We would prefer not to think that way. But I’ve recently come to suspect he is doing this on purpose, to force us to face a hard truth now in order to make it easier to deal with in the future. I can’t bear the thought of losing him, the thought makes my heart break. Writing this has been a long time coming, because it’s just so hard. I would like to ignore what is fact and live as if he will always be here with us becuase the alternative doesn’t seem do-able. But we have to face that reality, and I think that accepting it will help us all love each other as fully as we can. Not a single one of us knows what tomorrow may bring.

So Dad, I want to tell you that you mean the world to me. I love how involved you have been in my life, how you are so obviously proud of me, how you encourage me and challenge me, and how you and Mom have taught me how to love others. I love our frequent long phone calls, and the fact that you tell me about your Master of Commander book series every time I see you. Your passion for learning was a massive influence in my life, and I love that you passed your artistic abilities on to me, and especially that you cultivated in me a passion for sarcasim and wit. Giving you, and Eric, and Mom a hard time is one of my life’s great joys, and I learned that from you. I love that I’m your favorite daughter and I will always know that deep down I am your favorite kid too, but I’ll keep it our litle secret. I wish you had been a bit more generous with your athletic ability, but I suppose you wish that I cared about sports even the little tiniest bit. Sorry about that. Your grandkids ADORE you and I’m amazed at how much energy you give them even when you feel like crap. I wish you didn’t have to feel like crap, and I don’t mind you complaining about it because lord knows I have complained to you all over the years. When you’re gone, I’m going to be pretty devasted, I won’t lie. I’ll probably be a big ‘ol weepy heap of mess, and I hope there is someone out there who will be able to comfort me the way you would have. Maybe you should think about writing me a letter, something funny and sarcastic and full of corny jokes and comfort. I hope I won’t have to read it for at least another decade, but I know you don’t think that will be the case. Dammit. I really love you Dad and I’m so glad I get the chance to tell you that now instead of writing this to the sky when you are gone. (You better get me those religion books soon, and work on me while you still can.)

One more thing, you probably shouldn’t call me to tell me that you have read this. Because if you do I won’t be able to talk about it. I’ll probably have to hang up on you, and that would be rude. But I’ll know you’ve seen it because you check my blog religiously. That’s pretty cool. And however long we all have left together, you’ll know how I really feel. This is for you Dad, and also for me.

One response »

  1. Well it is Sunday aft and after church I came home, ate, and took a long nap. I just got up and checked your blog. I won’t call you now either, because I am crying. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, I couldn’t love anyone more than your dad and I knew when I met him those many years ago that he was a really special person .I am glad you wrote this, Love you, Mom

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