A little while ago, my friend’s dad died very suddenly. I didn’t find out the circumstances right away, but I knew enough to know he wasn’t sick or anything. So while my friend and her boyfriend were focused on his mom who was suffering from illness at the time, it was my friend’s dad who ended up dying. It got me thinking that death always seems to evade my expectations and show up out of left field. Like when my friend’s dad died when we were in high school. It happened so abruptly while I’d been preoccupied with the inevitability of my own dad’s death. Or when after graduating college, my friend and I made the unspoken agreement to get in touch with each other again when Dad died, never dreaming that it was his brother we should have been worried about. It’s like just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, no matter how awful the situation may be – you’ve at least come to terms with it, life comes out of nowhere and kicks you in the shins.
I didn’t really know how to feel about it at the time. How odd that we would end up having this in common, losing a parent so young. And sadly her boyfriend joined us shortly. What a terrible club to become a member of. I’m trying to think back and remember what I wanted during those last few days when my dad was fighting in a hospital bed. I tried to be sensitive when I texted her, replacing “What happened?” with “How are you doing?” I figured if she wanted to tell me the details of his passing she could be the one to volunteer that. I didn’t want her to feel obligated to talk about it if she didn’t want to. I think what it comes down to is that everyone grieves differently; so while I may have some idea of what she went through, it doesn’t mean that she necessarily needed the same things I did when Dad passed away.
I remember feeling so guilty when my high school friend’s dad died. He had been healthy, it was just a freak accident, while Dad was already on permanent disability with no signs of getting better. I almost wished I could’ve traded places with her – or more accurately, traded my dad’s life for her dad’s. Obviously life doesn’t work like that, and I am glad for the eight or so years we had with Dad before he did actually die, but that guilt was there. It just seemed so senseless. I didn’t have that same guilt when I found out about my college friend’s brother, I was mostly just shocked. I think the reason I didn’t feel a sense of guilt was because Dad was already so far gone at that point, that the misery of losing a sibling equaled the misery of watching my father deteriorate before my eyes. I didn’t have anything to barter with anymore.
After all of this, you would understand if I spent my days in bed with the covers pulled over my head. Some days I’m tempted, believe me. But what kind of a life is that? All of this has taught me that death can strike at any time, and it will always outsmart you. So if it alludes prediction, then I refuse to predict it! I will not become a slave to the fear of loss, I will live my life in spite of death. Besides, my dad’s passing was not in itself a wholly sad event. Since his illness was so drawn out, the moment he finally let go held relief for him and those who loved him. With that in mind, I view his death as something to quietly celebrate – a remembrance of his life and his strength, not merely his death. My dad has been a source of strength and inspiration for me since before he died, and I’m not going to let his dying change that. I may not be able to outsmart death, but I can rise above it.