A year ago today I began what ultimately became a long, hard year of goodbyes to people I really loved. I was at work and received a call from my dad that I needed to go home to Texas because they were moving my hilariously adorable and totally inappropriate grandmother to hospice – it was time to say goodbye. My Oma had recently turned 90 and after a birthday party fit for a queen began a rapid health decline that had brought us to this place.
Because God and the universe are amazing, I made it there on the last day that she was communicating so I got to share good memories, tell her I love her and give her a real hug – I got to say good bye. What I could not have known at that time was how important those 12 days I had at home would become. Ten days after my grandmother’s funeral I got another call from my dad and that was the call that really changed everything. When I had been home his stomach had been hurting, but I didn’t give it a serious thought. It turns out it was very serious – it was Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. That call started a five-month long journey for my family as my dad so bravely fought but ultimately succumbed to cancer.
From the moment of diagnosis we knew that while he was going to fight hard, that time was probably short. And I think that is possibly the silver lining of cancer – you can take advantage of limited time, knowing that it is limited. During that time one of my focuses was to really enjoy being alive together for as long as possible and to not begin grieving him until he was truly gone.
But man, once was he was gone the grief was (and truthfully still is) all consuming. And, these are a few things I have learned about it.
- Grief is isolating, but it is not meant to be done alone. My dad spent his entire life investing in people. The result of this investment now is countless family, friends and co-workers that share his lessons and love with others. We are facing our grief together.
- Grief is exhausting. You move forward because you have to, not because you are ready. It is hard not to let how much I miss him consume everything. It is those moments of silence and at night that are the hardest. You fill your day hoping to be so tired that you fall asleep. And on the days when that doesn’t work you are tired because wonderful memories keep you awake at night.
- Grief magnifies life. My life, even without my dad, is still amazing, but now I see it all in a more glorious way. The beauty of ordinary things bring me such joy. A joy that is felt deeply because I truly understand its opposite – sorrow – in a much more intimate way now.
- Grief is love. The greater the grief, the greater love. I know that if nothing else is true that my dad and I loved each other immensely. And, I would not for one second give up the pain now, for the love to have been less. Love is always worth it.
I still stand by what I shared at my dad’s memorial service. At the very end I said that I would spend the rest of my life wishing that more of our time here had overlapped and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world that he was my dad.
I am lucky. I had my dad for 33 years… he taught me to ride a bike and drive a stick shift, attended all my pep-rallies, proudly cheered at graduations and walked me down the aisle. Yet, his loss has still been life altering. In moments like this I can’t help but think how critical places like Kate’s Club are for kids who are so much younger and lose parents and siblings when they are still trying to figure out who they are. To me this is the most important reason that as adults we must go out of our way to remove any barriers that exist to make it okay to grieve. We must #facegrieftogether.