Wednesday, April 26, 2006

So, my Dad died...

...back on March 18th, and it got me thinking a lot. And talking a bit with my wife. She and I; we're very different on the subject of grief, and it's hard for each of us to understand the other's positions. She's more in the traditional camp, with more pronounced emotional responses, and with an extreme sense of loss. But I'm somehow different.

I've been through several of these things now; my maternal grandfather, my mother's 2nd husband Mike, my best friend Mike (who died WAY too early at 34 of a heart attack), both grandmothers, and now my father. And with the exception of one time with Mikey, right after we found him, and I was trying to restrain my wife so she wouldn't see him, we cried as I held her back. But I didn't cry on any of the others. This is not to say that I didn't or don't grieve. Quite the contrary. And nor is it some half-assed attempt at strength. I'm not sure I can explain it. Call me stoic, if you will. But I think what it's about is that on one hand I'm a realist, and on the other, my faith foundation tells me some things with what I'm able to consider profound certainty.

First, we're all going to die. It's part of life, and I think Americans fear it too much. We fear that which we do not understand, or so it is said. Well, I guess I don't fear it as much as some; at least as it applies to others. I have most of the same fears as the next guy relating to my own mortality, certainly more so now that I have both a wife and a daughter to care for. Anyway. When the people I mentioned died; It was a foregone conclusion for all but one; and more than one had outlived medical expectations. So, it wasn't dealing with a surprise, it was processing the inevitable. And in Mikey's case, he hadn't been to a doctor in six years leading up to his death; and had he done so, even a GP would have picked up the irregularities in his heart (it ended up being 50% enlarged, I'd speculate his cholesterol was near four digits.) and he may have avoided it. in any case; nothing I could have done for him, or for any of the others. So, in my mind, there's nothing to emotionally disintegrate about there. Now, on to the spiritual...

My belief in God (see an upcoming blog for the nature of that) tells me with certainty that the souls of those I loved and lost are safe with Him. And it really doesn't have to go a lot farther than that in most cases. So, there's something to actually lift my spirits. I'm comforted. I remember Revelation 21:4 in my mind:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Out of context, to be certain. But, at the end of my life, and at the end of all our lives, we're all going to be together. So, I'm OK with that.

Lastly, my father and I went through an 8-year estrangement, because at the time I had elected to no longer participate in, and be a victim of, the extraordinarily abusive co-dependent relationship he was mired in with a disgusting, dysfunctional, festering, crackhead wandering shred of human debris. He had also made some horrible ethical and moral choices then and prior that severely hurt some other people that I care a lot about, and I cannot abide that under any circumstances. So, at the time, he was already dead to me, and I mourned him then, over the course of 8 years. I never didn't love him, but I'd lost all respect for him. That to me was worse, because it was his stock in trade, a virtue he valued above almost all other. We reconciled a little while after my daughter was born, because there was no way I was going to deny him the joy of a relationship with a granddaughter he never figured he'd even have, much less see. And, I discovered after years of thought, that the choices he made in his own life were his problem, and I also learned that if people he hurt forgave him; I no longer had any reason to hold a grudge on their behalf.

So, I let it go. And I found a man who had softened considerably; 2 years of kind, gentle, funny times; the best times together we ever had. He knew that I loved him, he knew that his granddaughter loved him, and he got to watch her grow. We enjoyed sports, a mutual obsession with The West Wing, and his granddaughter. So, the 8 years of silence served to help me to find the real father that I loved. His health had declined significantly, and I knew he didn't have long, and he exasperated the hell out of me because with emphysema, asthma, a quad bypass and a half-dozen strokes; the man still smoked. But I cherish the times we had at the end, and I cherish the man he was, and honor greatly the man he wanted to be.

So, in closing, death is just another step. That's why I don't freak out.

DISCLAIMER: They also say that when a man loses his mother, his wife, or his child, all bets are off, so who knows how I'll be if any of those things happen.

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