Friday, July 31, 2009

The Dad

of a very special friend of mine died yesterday. He’d been waging battle with cancer for a couple of years. He was at  home, with his wife and two daughters. And they too were with him. 

My friend is in another state, so I can’t touch her, clean her house, cook for her. I will try to go to whatever service they may have for him but that seems like a paltry gesture.

In truth, if I was in her presence, I’m not sure I’d know what to do anyway. Cleaning and cooking I could undertake. Touching her, hugging her, would be natural.  Otherwise I feel paralyzed. Death does that to me. My arms and hands tremble even now, as I type.

Negative table

It’s not that I’ve had a lot of traumatic experience with death, or none at all. My own dad died several years ago, but I’d not seen him in over 10 years and hadn’t really known him ever. My grandparents have all passed away. While I did know them, they were emotionally distant and I was one of the youngest grandchildren in large extended families. I’ve had former special education students die far too young and that was hardest of all. Death isn’t a stranger, but nor does it haunt me.

It’s not that I’m even particularly fearful of my own death, or un-accepting of it’s inevitability. I see it as part of a cycle, not an end. What may lie beyond death is an interesting philosophical question, not a dreaded one.


Maybe it’s the emotion of loss. Loss has always been hard for me. Goodbyes, even the most mundane ones, can be overwhelming. So maybe it’s being inside that uncontrollable grief with another person that is so dang hard for me.

There is nothing to be said. There are no solutions, no upsides to be explored. There is grief and being willing to be in that dark heavy soup with the other person. I don’t scare easily. I’ve been in plenty of dark corners of other people’s lives and minds, and have been able to maintain my own sense of balance and optimism. But being in loss, with someone else, scares me.

Good to know. Easier to face the fear when I can name it.

Thanks for listening dear stranger-friends.


simply blogged said...

I have such a hard time with goodbyes too. This week I had to say goodbye to my dad who had been visiting and every time I cry like I am the 12 year old who was torn between two divorced parents. I hate it. I dread the day I say the big goodbye. My heart goes out to your friend and to you not only for the loss of your dad but that you did not know your dad real well.


Jennifer Murphy said...

The most difficult part of dealing with death for me is that there's nothing you can say or do to make it better. It's one of the rare times in life when you're truly powerless.

Blissful Begonia said...

Such an honest and heartfelt post. I wish you peace as you maneuver through this place of loss.

all that i am said...

i like how you explored so many emotions in just those few words...
your dad, the busyness we tend to do, the powerlessness we feel in not really being able to do more...

the not really being afraid of death but afraid of not knowing what to do
the hope of something after...

it's really just about being 'present'
however and whenever that may be

kendalee said...

Rachel, I keep coming back and I want to say something in response but nothing really seems appropriate or adequate. So I'll just say, "I get it" and leave it at that.