Tuesday, March 10, 2009

moving beyond death

As many of you know my father died last week. My trip to Pasadena was canceled and we tired ourselves everyday with funeral plans and sleepless nights. To track my emotional process through this all I have been writing letters to my father. In an effort to stay connected with my blogging family I will post one of these letters from a few days ago. I am also planning on sharing other thoughts about my dad's life, my relationship to him, and my process of moving through grief.

I have been overwhelmingly welcomed to talk and to cry with family and friends and in many ways this has been a bonding and a community experience... the kind I have been looking for ever since I moved back to Portland and felt a real loss of my Pasadena community. It's tragic that it happened in that way, but I am so glad for the love and support I have. There are moments in these letters where I feel so alone, but I want my blogging community to know that things are okay and even though I may feel lonely I know I am not alone.

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March 7, 09

Dad,

It feels like it’s been a million years and it has only been one week. We were so busy answering phone calls, eating the gifts people shared, making song decisions, and doing everything with half of our brain present that the week was both a blur and a long, long continuous moment... a moment scattered with tears and hugs and memories. The closer we got to the day of the funeral the least I wanted it to come. I kept thinking to myself, how could I possibly wake up the day after your funeral? What would I do? How could I go to work? Or get out of bed? Or eat? The day after... it seemed too real, too final, too over. As long as I was busy making plans for the funeral it was all still real... we were all still aware of your death, of the unfairness and shock of it all, of the pain that we felt because you were gone. But the day after there would be no more calls, there would be no more flowers, and even worse, the flowers we had would start to die. I just couldn’t bear it.

The morning of your funeral I woke up and my bones felt old and heavy. I startled awake at 6am and didn’t fall back asleep.... but for a long time I just lay there and couldn’t move. I kept thinking about strange things and my mind was wandering. It was better than the previous few days where I would find anything and everything to do until the wee hours of the morning when I crashed with fatigue. One night I lie awake next to Donovan’s sleeping body and listened to every breath, anxious that he would not take the next one. It helped me the day before the funeral to be busy getting my hair done and buying a nice dress. I’m sure had you seen me in this dress you would have thought that I looked very pretty but you wouldn’t have had the nerve to tell me so.

Somehow, God only knows, I found myself walking down my front steps, fully dressed at 8:30am ready for the day. The car ride was so quiet. It was like the night that you died... that long terrible car ride from my house to yours. It’s plenty long enough to think about millions of terrible things. I passed by the church on the way to mom’s house and cried. I thought how ironic it is that you almost died on the Tualatin River (the pre-Easter car accident when the drunk lady hit you) and now you are here at the church, a pile of ashes in an urn. It’s hard to reconcile it all. Just last week we were talking together, laughing together, and I was worried about forgetting to call Molly and Al for you. Now you are gone. In that way it seems so sudden and so unexpected. I realize that this doesn’t make sense because in some ways we had months and years to know that you would be gone soon, but it doesn’t mean I could have known how it would feel to be in my twenties and to be without a father.

I remember small bits of that day. It’s all blurry though. I was in the rain and it didn’t matter. I was in the limo and I was laughing and taking pictures. The limo pulled up and we saw the bucket trucks all sitting there. It was too much to bear to see your bucket low and bent over and the others as high as they could go. I remember holding Doug Cutler and crying... I remember that feeling that I was comforting him with my hug more than the other way around. I remember crying into my hanky. I remember thinking it is all to formal, how the Pastors should have to stop and just cry for a while for it all to feel right, but they didn’t. I remember thinking how much you would have liked to be there, to see Gina and Ken, to see Paul and Dale, to see Jim and Helen, to see people from all over the place hugging and smiling and crying. I kept thinking about how you always talked to the one who was left out and so I talked with Jim and with Helen and with Paul and with Grandma because I know you would have tried too. I remember “Unforgettable” and totally loosing it when I heard the song, I remember the smell of PGE jackets and how comforting it was, I remember sad and understanding eyes. I was so hungry afterwards because I couldn’t eat all morning. I remember eating and thinking that you would have loved the idea of feeding all of your family and friends, and having them all sit down together and have you take the tab. I’m sure you would not have wanted to be the focus of the day. Surely you would have asked others how they were. Some at the funeral mentioned that about you; I wonder if that was actually your greatest fault.

3 comments:

Janelle said...

I've never known much or read much about the process of grief, but I thank you for sharing your knowledge and stories.
I can't help but overflow with tears of sadness and joy and love as I read your letter Emily. It's so beautifully written.

The Lewis and Ruby Blog World said...

Thanks Emily...I hope it helps in your healing process to share your heart here. We appreciate your honesty and it helps us realize and cherish the beauty of life.

tree hugger said...

It does help to share. Yes, life is so much more precious than I ever realized it is. I love you ladies, thanks for reading.