Friday, February 23, 2018

Back to Normal?

On December 17th, just days after my dad entered into hospice care, I wrote the following paragraph on my blog:

Knowing what I know about grief, I am fairly certain that one of the most challenging parts about all of this will be that the outside world will go on as normal. It isn't going to stop because of what my family is going through. There's still work to be done, problems to be solved. I will want to hit a pause button but I will not be able to, and will have to go on balancing it all, envious of everyone else who gets to live a "normal" life. 

We are now two weeks post my dad's passing, and I can confidently say that I was right. 

I returned to work just four days ago, after being on FMLA, then intermittent FMLA, then bereavement leave. I haven't worked a "normal" schedule (as normal as my schedule can get) since early December. It's been a difficult and exhausting transition. I feel behind at work, and trying to get caught up while also knowing a busy season is just around the corner. I'm also distracted at work, busy getting things done and scheduling meetings. It doesn't give me time to to think about my dad. In my mind, that's both good and bad. Good that I have stuff to do to keep me busy and active, but bad because I start to feel slightly guilty. Like I've just forgotten it all already. Sometimes at work I feel like I am acting, acting like everything is fine and I was just on vacation for a while, so that's why I am so behind. I hate that feeling.

Then I come home and I'm just so tired, and fall into the couch exhausted, going to sleep by 9 pm. 

It doesn't help that I've been sick all week, making me even more tired. 

This doesn't feel normal.

Normal, for me, is working, going to the gym, spending time with Tom and family, reading, watching Netflix, seeing friends, going to church. Getting the grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning done on Saturdays.

Normal right now is working, sleeping, doing very minimal housework, checking in with my mom, repeat. It's bursting into tears at random times. It's not seeing my friends in months. I can't tell you the last time I did something socially. It may have been before my wedding, in September.

And I miss him so much! Even when I call my mom and know he's not there with her, it's hard. Miss his hugs, his encouragement, his gentleness. 

I know I will keep fighting. I know I will be strong. He has instilled that in me. And I fight for him. But I also know it's going to be the toughest fight yet. My body aches and my heart is heavy. But it's one step in front of the other, while carrying this grief with me.

Thank you for walking on this journey with me. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

You're the light through my window from afar

I think we all float through life knowing that, unfortunately, we will lose people close to us. From a young age, we learn that people die, it's sad, and it will keep happening. No one is protected from this.

I've had a lot of people close to me die. Some were tragic, some were sudden, some were much too young. And yet, none of these prepared me to lose my dad.

I have spent the last four and a half years wondering when my dad's cancer would get too strong. We knew upon diagnosis that his cancer was strong, and that while he could find ways to beat it, it would always come back. My dad fought hard. He overcame every odd that was against him. With every new medication introduced, he willingly gave it a try. He and cancer were in a war against one another, one full of twists and turns. Eventually the cancer found a way to defeat. This does not mean that my dad wasn't strong. It doesn't mean he gave up. It simply means that the cancer was stronger. Way too strong.

When my dad entered into hospice care, I really started to "prepare" to lose him. I put that in quotes because I realize now that there is truly no way to prepare. You think you're ready, but you're not.

And then it happened. After 3 days of what they call "actively dying", my dad took his last breaths at 5 am on a Saturday morning, while most of the rest of the world was sleeping. It didn't seem real. It didn't seem like he could actually be gone.

It seems crazy to think that my dad has joined my army of angels. Even though I knew this day would come, I still can't quite grasp the idea that he's standing with Laurence and Susan and my grandparents and all the other people I have lost.

He's shown me that he's still with us, though. There have been flickering lights and deer and dreams. There was a song, one that is not well known, playing loudly in Target, just hours after I had been listening to it on my phone, thinking about the lyrics and how they related to death. There was the Target cashier who, as I was about to pull away, said "Wait, I feel like I have to tell you a dad joke!". Sure, each of these things could be a coincidence, or have a logical explanation, but I am choosing to believe that my dad is giving me signs that he is okay.

Watching my dad fade away was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The man we once knew as "the big guy" became thin and weak, his skin grey and the blue in his eyes started to dim. During all of this, I couldn't understand why it went on for so long. If God was ready to take him, why didn't he just take him? Man, those weeks were rough. I cried out so many times. I prayed for trust. I know now that it was my dad fighting back, just as he always had before. He wanted to stay on this earth as long as he could, just to be with us.

There is a small part of me that feels guilty now, wondering if I prayed too hard for God to take him, worried that my dad felt like I was pushing him away. That's something I am going to have to work through, and in the meantime I have made a point to tell my dad how much I love him every chance that I can, because I know he can hear me.

But I do truly believe that my dad is home now, and even though we don't have him physically on earth and that breaks my heart, he IS in a better place. I know that's one of those things that people say after someone dies, but I do truly believe it. And one day, we'll join him in this home.

I will miss my dad more than I can possibly express. He was, without a doubt, a wonderful man, husband, and father. We are all so lucky to have had him. He made an everlasting impact on our lives, and even though it doesn't feel quite real yet that he is gone, we will carry on his legacy in our own ways.

I will likely be blogging a little bit more as I process thoughts. I may share stories of my dad or stories of grief. I may tell you about all the way he's reminding me that he is still here. I just know that I have to write. My dad was one of my biggest cheerleaders for writing, he read my blog posts faithfully. For him, I'll let the words that are flowing through me out. Maybe they will help someone else. I hope so.

For now, I'll leave you with the song I mentioned up above that started playing in Target- loudly- just a few hours after I listened to it on my phone with a new perspective of the lyrics.