The final part to my letter...
I also think experiencing grief has allowed me a greater joy for what I do still have. At a certain point after he died life returned somewhat to normal again. And now my new normal is knowing that sometimes I am sad that my father died, sometimes telling people about him, sometimes being angry at him or selfishly want to talk to him and have a wise mind to bounce things off of. Normal also just means doing regular things too and not thinking about him at all, like working or talking with friends or going to church. I feel that the majority of that first year I waded through death, through the dark places, through questions and injustice, and through the feeling of things being “cut short.” But there is something different now, like I can experience moments of joy and really embrace them in a way I couldn’t before. It isn’t just that ticking clock that is gone, although that does change things for sure, and mostly it’s a relief not to hear it all the time. It’s like, when my husband and I really connect or I get really excited about the baby that is ready to come in June or something really amazing happens with my church body or my friends I can really praise God for those moments because I know that they are fleeting but they are those same things that are little pieces of me (and them) that are impressed on each other for this short time we have on earth that no one else can share. Those are the same things I hold dear even now with my father... the days we could fit side by side in a big arm chair and watched TV, how I used to try to lace up his work boots for him in the morning as a young child, the first time he taught me to make coffee, our frustrating adventures of me learning to drive, our recent trip to the Gorge with the dogs.
I can’t say grieving is all over. Just this morning I was thinking of him when I was making breakfast and wishing he would have eaten healthier to perhaps lower his likelihood of getting cancer or increase the quality of his last years of life. Things pop up at church a lot too, like last week when we talked about the healing that Jesus did of the man at the well and how my father and our whole family prayed for years for healing and it never happened. I cried like a baby and in my heart I wondered why some are healed and some live a crippling painful death that lasts for years. I guess in some sense I resolve that by being grateful that God allowed for us to have more time with him on earth to enjoy before he died. But I still miss him. Sometimes Donovan says something about my behavior (like stubbornness or impatience, traits that many women in my family have not just me) and says something about empathizing with my dad for dealing with us all for so many years and I am somehow softened and warmed by my dad showing up in our day.
Grief has been quite the journey. It is messy and so not easily categorized as some clinicians may explain it to be. I was all over the board in those five years. And in the aftermath in the last 14 months I have experienced new feelings I never new I had in me and old feelings that have been there in this whole process too. At first I made long lists of why he got cancer, I worried about getting it myself and about my children getting cancer one day. I blamed his work, I blamed him, and I blamed God. I tried being normal and moving forward with life as if nothing was wrong, I tried processing how it had taken a toll on me and even saw a therapist for a long period of time specifically about how this was changing our family system, and I tried being intentional with him. The truth is, we can do all we can do to prepare ourselves for death but we can never really accept it, we can never really feel okay with it. My pastor at the time of my father’s death shared with me a scripture that comforted me saying essentially that... that on this earth there is pain and death and injustice but in heaven it is different because God brings completion and wholeness. So our humanity has us right on target, it feels bad, it feels undone, and that’s okay. So maybe I will always feel that... I’ll feel sad my child doesn’t get to meet it’s maternal grandfather, I’ll feel sad that my father’s life was mostly work and no retirement, I’ll feel sad we never grew into a good adult parent/child relationship, but the good news is that with God there is wholeness and completion and all the things we long for because God longs for those things too.
I hope this helps piece a few things together as far as how I have traveled this road of grief thus far and gives you some real life material to use for class.
Peace to you in your own journey, as I know it is a difficult road.