Friday, August 18, 2006

Lesson's learned

I had intended on posting something on the one year anniversary of my father's passing. As it turned out I just didn't know what to say.

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about the things that I've learned over the last couple of years, things about myself and life in general. I am amazed at how much has changed, how much I have changed.

I look back at my life two years ago and I see something and someone that is almost unrecognizable to me now. The woman I was then was harsher, rougher around the edges, maybe less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. She was stubborn and never asked anyone for help. Back then I was working with the local police department, in my last semester of graduate school, and had only been on the job (my full time one) as an investigator for a couple of months. To say that I was stressed would be laughable. Daddy had decided about that time that he didn't want to try dialysis and we fully anticipated that he would die before the holidays arrived. I was asked by my mother to start writing his eulogy so we wouldn't have that to worry about when the time came. I was smoking about a pack and a half a day and only sleeping about two hours a night on average. I had no patience and no time... I was in a war fighting for my life and the survival of my family.

One year ago I had graduated from school, had settled into my job, left work at the police department, and was reeling from the death of the greatest man I have ever known. I think at the time I was shocked. Why you ask? Granted, I had thirteen years to prepare for his passing, thirteen years of close calls and worrying. But that's the point. I had thirteen years! In all that time he continued to beat the odds, he never gave up and never stopped fighting. I think somewhere in my mind I really believed that he couldn't die. That we wouldn't lose this battle, he was too strong, too noble, too... huge. It just couldn't happen. And then it did and everything I knew about who I was changed. I was no longer a care provider or a nurse, I was a woman that had lost her dad. Close to half of my life had been spent dealing with his care, with him gone I had to figure out how to live. What was our new normal going to be? How could I live without that constant worry and fear? The guilt that comes from feeling like no matter what you do it's never going to be enough, the pressure of always making every Birthday, holiday, family dinner, anniversary... every everything the very best it can possibly be because it will probably be the last one you'll ever celebrate as a whole family. A year ago I was a shell and I didn't know what was meant to go inside of that shell. All I knew is that I had to fake it because I had a little boy who needed me to make things alright. Somehow.

And now. I look at my life now and I am struck by the sheer awesomeness of it all. I have in one year seen the very worst and the very best that life has to offer. Horrible, crushing grief coupled just a short time later with unimaginable beauty and joy. Yin and Yang all in the span of a year. Amazing.

I still get sad sometimes... I doubt there will ever be a day that I don't miss him and grieve for his loss, but I can do it with perspective now. While I wouldn't wish this experience on anyone, I am grateful for the things that I have learned from it. I am a survivor. Period.

I met up with a friend this past week, I hadn't seen him in a while and I wanted to check and see how he was doing. His best friend committed suicide about a month ago and he's still trying to come to terms with her loss. I stood there wanting more than anything to say the magic words that would lessen his pain or make it a little more manageable. Something that would be comforting and give him peace. As we stood talking I thought back to how I felt a year ago, the things that helped me. In the end I realized that the best thing that I could do as his friend was to let him talk, or rage, or cry, or yell, or laugh... whatever he felt like doing, and just keep my mouth shut as much as possible. Hugs are free and I have two shoulders for a reason, and sometimes being a friend means just standing there in silence and being there.

I wanted to tell him that it hurts because getting stronger always does. That there would come a day when she wasn't the first thing he thought about when he woke up, and that that would be the day that he felt the worst. That eventually he would be able to think back on the time that he had with his friend and smile at those memories, that he would be able to do that without the crushing pain of loss. That it would probably never make sense to him but that eventually he would be able to forgive and make peace with himself, his God, and his friend. That while it will always hurt, it won't always hurt like this. That he is stronger than he feels right now and that he will be able to take the lessons that he learned from this horrible experience and be able to offer his shoulder to another friend someday. That doing that will bring back those feelings of grief and loss but in a bittersweet way. That it will come full circle and that if he keeps his heart open he will learn joy.

I have learned a lot about myself and life this past year. Growing is hard, it's scary, and it's often not pretty. Life is a gift and every day is another chance to get it right. Of all the lessons I've learned that is the one that I am the most thankful for.

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