It’s incredible how we can heal from some of the most terrible losses in our lives. I attribute God for that transformation, but I have no idea how it happens. It is quite a mystery. I’ve read articles about grief and also read C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed to try to find a formula for how people get through something so painfully visceral and paralyzing. I wanted to discover a way to make it easy – forget that.
This morning I had to go into my office for something and felt that one of my past journals was calling for me to read it. I took it downstairs to my favorite quiet morning spot and opened up to these pages.
”September 16, 1997. Today, my Dad passed away at 7:15 AM. I didn’t realize how much I loved him until I got shocked by the phone call from the doctor. The emotion is stuck in the upper part of my throat and over my heart which feels so very, very heavy. I am so pleased that I was able to spend the last few weeks with him in the hospital. I treasured being able to hold him and tenderly brush his brow and hair. The few white tufts of hair on the top of his head reminded me of the down feathers of a bird. His skin was soft as a baby’s, which looked so peaceful when I arrived to say goodbye. For the last week, his strained brow and forehead made me want to do anything to get this poor man comfort and peace. I’d ask him the night before if he was in any pain and he said no. This man had invasive cancer in most of his lymph nodes. He was a crusty, tough cookie, who outlived his fatal prognosis by 7 years. Towards Sunday night, though, when I asked the same question, he changed his answer to sometimes. He called me Carly and when I asked if he knew who I was, he would shake his head yes. He was too big for the bed, too restless to keep covered, and too agitated to keep calm. But my family and friends and I tried our best. I still have regrets – that I didn’t spend the last night there and went home so that I could be with the boys in the morning, and that I did not get over to the hospital early enough to say goodbye.
What an absolutely massive hole in my life this is going to leave. He has been my company for years, and especially these last few months. Each night I would sit with him in the hospital and watch TV. I love it when you’re so close to someone that there is no need to talk when together. Pop told me that I looked pretty, which was quite unusual because he wasn’t a very effusive person. He said you really look pretty today and kept calling me sweetheart. Throughout my life he never called me sweetheart. He was my sweetheart – everyone that knew him, loved him. Oh Pop. Every time I would give him a sentimental card, he would burst out crying. He cried a lot in the last few months. One day in the hospital he was crying and said ”I don’t think I’m going to make it this time.” He knew.
I didn’t have any idea, or perhaps the denial was necessary to protect me from utter devastation. I don’t know. All I know is that it feels terrifying and enormously sad that I won’t hear him call my name, Carol Ann, anymore, in that low, gravelly voice. God help me to get through this without my heart bursting from grief.”
How can feeling that crushed and devastated be survived? And yet it is. Eventually, we return to life being a better person for knowing the one that we have loved so dearly. It’s difficult to believe that when going through it, but I have found it to be true.