The blog I never wanted to write.
As I put my youngest one to sleep this afternoon, I stroked his hair and face contemplating how to spend my silent next hour. I’m exhausted, like I have been for the past 19 days. I could sleep, but I’ve needed medicine to do that recently, and I’m afraid to use it during the day when I am caring for my kids. I could eat. I haven’t yet today, and I know I should. But I won’t be able to force it down, and nothing sounds good anyways. I could slump onto the couch, turn on the TV and use the mind – numbing screen to suppress the pain. It has worked over the past few weeks. But the show I was binge watching on Netflix now just reminds me of how hard the past few weeks have been. I’m tired of running to the screen to escape feeling things. I know what I need to do, it’s time to write. To put to paper the process. It’s painful, because I have to be vulnerable and the wound is raw. But I deserve this therapy, to open up and reach into the gravity of my new reality, and relate to others also hurting. After all, I started the blog to share, and my hope has always been to encourage others, as others have inspired me.
So here it goes.
I turned 26 on November 2nd. I woke up to a wonderful breakfast made by my husband and babies, and was flooded with texts and calls wishing me a happy day. I’m blessed it was this day, otherwise I might not have heard his voice. I got a call from my dad around 9 AM. We talked about his New York trip, my kids, and he asked me if I thought they were ready for their first Papa ski trip. He told me that he loved me, a sentiment he frequently wrote, but verbally expressed only on rare occasions. I proceeded with my day and had just fed the boys lunch when Damon called. I can still hear his voice, firm but shaking. “Alex I’m on my way home, your dad had a heart attack and died this morning.” Immediate shock. I just talked to him, he was fine. He’s healthy, he was even heading to run in a little bit. No, he was at the health club and headed home for lunch – you’re wrong I thought. I begged him to tell me he was joking, but within seconds I was receiving phone call after phone call on the other line from other family members, and the shock became real. I remember falling to the floor, shaking, screaming that I didn’t want him to die. What was God thinking? Why dad? Can’t they normally save healthy people? The next few moments are a blur, I called my brother to confirm and wail, my kids rushed by – tugging at me confused about the sudden tears. I made phone calls to tell others, and I walked around like a ghost packing a suitcase to head home. I will have to address the first few days after his death later on, because I’m not sure that my memory can stand to go back to them right now.
Fast forward 19 days. After the rush of memorial planning the shock started to wear off and the pain set in, just in time for me to “need to get back to real life”. You can’t avoid it forever. I’ve jotted down pieces of thoughts that pop in during the times my head isn’t fogged by the depression, and I wanted to share them.
Grief is like potty training a child. One step forward, six steps back. Just when you think you have your shit together, you can’t control it anymore and you regress. One minute I’m sobbing, shaking, and my heart feels ripped apart. Ten seconds later the numbness takes over. Numb. I dread that feeling. I understand its function. It keeps my body and mind from being so overwhelmed that I can’t survive. But in the breakdown, I yell at God, asking him to leave the pain there just a little longer. That way I can experience it, exhaust myself, then pick up and move on. But grief is not linear, it is in fact, very jagged. My understanding before my experience was that you moved from one stage to the next, eventually reaching acceptance. In reality you can feel all stages at one moment, move from one to the next, or bounce to one and then regress right back to another within a seconds notice. It is unpredictable and exhausting. Confusing in fact. That’s the best word for every piece of this process.
The fear has been unwelcome. I understood the phrase “trust in God” much differently before than I do now. I trusted him for my small daily life anxieties, but don’t know that I ever trusted him fully for the big things. Otherwise I wouldn’t have specifically prayed to never lose anyone close, I always wanted to be first. I was convinced I wasn’t the type of person who could handle it. Currently the fear overwhelms me. I frantically keep my phone charged and next to me, waiting anxiously to get another call, hearing that another person I love could be gone. You see it happen to others, and you never process it happening to you. Death has made me fragile. It has put me closer to the reality of how fleeting life really is. I know and understand people die, but I now know the intensity of how near it is, for everyone. And although I am secure in my faith and have peace in where dad rests, I am intimidated by the unexpected – the fact that no one truly knows just exactly what heaven and eternity are like.
As an emotionally – fueled person, I invest my heart deeply into close relationships. I care probably too much about the ones I love. I’ve told myself several times that the grief would be easier if I was closed – off, more logistical minded, maybe even more independent. There’s a temptation to close that part of myself, to pull back as a protective measure, to save myself more pain. But my personality won’t allow that. God just didn’t make me that way. Cue part of the anger here.
My dad was a kind man. He cared silently. He was the ultimate gift – giver, frequently wrote letters, and put thought into everything he did. Whoever said it at his funeral described him perfectly, dad made everyone feel like he was their best friend. However, he had a hard time verbalizing his feelings as it wasn’t within his comfort zone. He would clam up whenever I became emotionally vulnerable, and there were times that I wished he would open up to me more. Sometimes I felt defeated when it wasn’t verbally reciprocated, but I kept pushing it anyways. Always following those incidents, I would receive a small gift or a letter in the mail, expressing all the things that he couldn’t say verbally. Regardless of his hesitancy, I forced my emotional personality on him. I constantly praised him, expressed my pride and gratitude, and always said I love you at the end of every call. Looking back it makes it harder, just how much I loved him. But I can securely say I have no regrets, nothing left unsaid, and peace that he knew how much I cherished him. Even though it makes the grieving more difficult, it gives me the motivation to keep my heart open. I don’t ever want to have any regrets.
I feel like a different person. I’ve heard a lot of people say that one of the hardest things is navigating how to live life in a new way. Living the same, but without a piece of you. The pain is more real during certain moments. Particularly when describing to my kids what physically being on earth means, versus what happens when your body is no longer here. Or picturing him at the places he used to be, that are now empty of his presence. Knowing I can’t call and hear “at the end of the day”. Or trying to make sure my kids have some memories of him, and struggling knowing they might be too young to remember him. Or replaying the scene where he died, picturing the moments over and over again in my head. Or when I tell myself he’s here watching from above, when I selfishly crave him physically to experience more with us here. But one more day just wouldn’t be enough.
I have incredible family and friends surrounding me. They have cared for me, nurtured me, and carried me through this storm. I am so grateful. I wish I could give them more reassurance, or a timeline of when I’ll feel okay. I feel frustrated it doesn’t work that way.
My handsome dad was at every event, blessed me more than I could ever express, and was inspiring in every area of his life.
Dad didn’t need 100 years to live a Jesus – worthy life, he did it in 55. It won’t ever be easy, but his legacy makes me want to be brave.
“So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
I wanna be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave
Brave, brave” Nichole Nordeman. Brave.