Surviving the loss of a loved one is heart breaking and debilitating. Healing takes place on many levels. Unfortunately grief does not arrive in a neat little box, it’s messy and chaotic. It doesn’t matter if it’s expected or unexpected when you lose someone you love and adore you are in turmoil.
Six months ago my father passed after a very long battle with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer. I thought I was prepared for his passing. I had moments when I would watch my father suffer and beg God for mercy. I would think to myself, how much agony can a human being endure? Why my father? He was a good man who loved God. My father suffered the last four years of his life, his final weeks were heartbreaking. I was given a front row seat to watch my father deteriorate before my eyes. I felt alone, helpless, worthless and lost. These were the darkest days of my life.
I write as an effort to try and understand why this happened to my hero, my father. I write to memorialize my beautiful father with hopes of helping others living with the same ache in their hearts.
I thought I was prepared for his death, I even was given a grandiose Hollywood ending. We rallied in his hospital room and held his hands as he entered the afterlife. I remember feeling the presence of God and loved ones who passed before my Dad. The entire room was filled with love and the strong scents of those that passed before us. At one point I remember being alone with my parents and becoming competely overpowered by the scent of flowers. Roses to be exact. It was the most wonderful, soothing feeling I ever experienced. At the moment, we knew we were not alone. We knew there was a presence greater than us, watching us, comforting us and guiding my father to a better place, guiding him to heaven. I watched my father leave his body, the body that fought so hard to stay with his family, the body that was poked and prodded by doctors for so many years. I watched my father’s soul leave his body that night and enter the gates of Heaven. My father’s death is something that now is a part of me, something I hold it in my heart right next to the massive void now where he once lived.
I have always told my Dad how much I loved him but the night of his passing I told him I loved him incessantly. In the midst of endless tears I whispered to him, “You can go Dad, we got this, we will take care of Mom.” As I bravely uttered those words it was like someone was turning a knife in my heart. What I really wanted to scream was, “Please don’t go Daddy, I don’t care that I’m an adult, I NEED you.” But you really can’t scream that to a man who just spent the last four years of his life unable to eat, enduring endless pain and suffering. There’s a point where you must accept God’s will and try to be “strong.” The key word here is try.
Six months later and I still have moments when I feel like my heart is breaking all over again. I have crushing, gut-busting, overwhelming, debilitating pain. And what is shocking to me is these moments come rushing in when it’s least expected.
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
If you’ve been reading my blog you know I spoke to my Dad daily, multiple times throughout the day. He even programmed a special ring on the phone for both my sister and my calls. When it rang he would yell, “It’s my Lisa Mia!” For a while the National Anthem played when I called, I remember laughing and saying, “Dad, I’m not the President!” He smiled and said, “You’re my Miss America!” That was my Dad, he loved his family.
Towards the end of his life his pain made the phone calls a challenge, but I still called. I would tell him, “Dad it’s just me, I just want you to know I love you more.” He would struggle to speak, but he always found the strength to whisper between excruciating gasps of pain, “You will always be my baby and I will always love you more.”
As time ticks on and I slowly realize that my Dad is really gone the pain becomes unbearable. When I celebrate an accomplishment, or create a new memory I search for my Dad. When I need advice I search for my Dad. When I need someone to cheer me on and tell me I can do it, I search for my Dad. When the world is too loud and I need a hug I want my Dad. I pretty much search for my Dad all the time.
Last week I decided to write on another topic close to my heart, Loving a Police Officer In Today’s Crazy World. The article had an awesome response. I was on a fabulous high, proud of my words, proud of this accomplishment, and then I felt a tugging at my heart. I really wanted to call my Dad. I wanted so badly to share this happy moment with my Dad. I wanted him to read my words and give me honest feedback. I went from elated to devastated in seconds. One minute I was smiling then next I was sobbing, holding my chest gasping for air. Once again I felt like Jekyll and Hyde.
This is what grief looks like. Grief is complicated, messy and unpredictable. Grief is a thief, robbing you of joyful moments, leaving you drowning in sorrow. Grief can be ugly, but it can also be beautiful sending you signs from loved ones showing you a beautiful life that once was. But as beautiful as those signs are, grief sucks the life out of you and leaves you on your knees begging for mercy, yearning for just one more conversation, one more hug, one more moment with that person.