My birthday list has been derailed because my life has been derailed.
On December 11, I found out that my dad died. No warning whatsoever. He had a heart attack in bed.
I’m thankful that he passed quickly and painlessly (I hope anyway) but sometimes I think the magnitude of shock and grief might kill me, too.
He lived in the house that I grew up in, a seven-hour drive from where I live. I immediately flew home and spent a week with my brother, who lives in the same town as my dad. My dad left no will and no paperwork in order, so much of the week was spent scrambling trying to figure out his accounts. We only paused for brief moments of grieving, where we would cry over the fact that he would never walk through my brother’s door unannounced like Kramer on Seinfeld, as he did on almost a daily basis…or cry as we shuffled through his house and came across a picture of him and my brother’s daughter that he had tacked up on the wall…or found cards that we had sent him years ago.
We made multiple visits to the funeral home in town, having to make decisions about the burial, the memorial service, the memorial cards, the cremains. We have no idea what my dad wanted, but we think he’d be happy with what we chose. I had to write his obituary, which was one of the most surreal moments of my entire life. How do you sum up a person’s life in a few paragraphs?
I’ve been experiencing the first four stages of grief like it’s my full-time job. One minute I’m looking through photos for the memorial service slideshow and I feel completely numb. The next minute I’m running errands and every time I pass an elderly man, I think, “Why does he get to live and my dad doesn’t?” Sometimes I start to go down the road of, “What if I had called him [a few days before he died], heard that he was very sick, and begged him to go to a doctor?” (He had either a bad cold or the flu before he died, which can increase the risk of heart attacks.) I’ve had moments where I’ve thought that I couldn’t go on.
I look to my friends who have already lost parents as inspiration. With time, the wounds will heal somewhat and I will live a “normal life” again. One day in the future, when I think about my dad, I’ll crack a smile instead of break down in uncontrollable sobs. I wait for that day.