I received an email from a dear friend who just lost her father about a month ago. He had not been well for a while, yet still remained humorous to the end, but within a few months passed on. A death of a parent disturbs our roots and shakes our foundation whether you are a caregiver or not.
I remember in 1999 when my father was diagnosed with emphysema and congestive heart failure, hearing the doctor’s words, “Your Dad may have a year or two.” I was stunned; numb…this can’t be happening. My INNER child was screaming, “this is not OK, …I am not ready to deal with his death.” This was not in the cards, cannot be happening….of course my parents will live forever. WRONG!
We joked numerously with our parents that there was a reason they had 5 daughters…the constant caregivers. It’s not by surprise that my sisters are my best friends. It wasn’t always like that growing up, but we worked at it through the years, confronting each other and working through issues. They would each be by my side and I theirs at a moment’s notice, unconditionally.
It is because of that bond I believe we were able to rally around taking turns caring for Dad and later with Mom who was diagnosed with lung cancer the summer before Dad died in 2000. Both of our parents made it very clear there was to be no nursing home in their future, though there are families where that is not an option. We 5 gathered around and came up with options, plans, schedules and support systems. Some of which our parents thought to be overdone, overprotective and overly committed. However, when I asked her, “If you were taking care of me, what would you do?” BINGO! Same solutions. (The apple does not fall far from the tree.)
We spent wonderful days caring for him and later with Mom. Those two years gave me a greater sense of “giving” unconditionally than I ever thought I had in me. I looked at every task, either changing a Depend to changing a soiled bed to feeding a meal never as a JOB or BURDEN but of coming full circle. It was my turn to give back to them for all the years in which they nurtured me, tended to my soil from which I grew strong roots and blossomed. Though I do remember a comment Dad made, “I would like to ship off my daughters from the ages of 13-18, and then have them back.” Guess there might have been a bit too much estrogen in the household for one single male…lol . Whenever there was a tense moment, we used humor; we shared stories and memories and soothed each other with touch.
Before Dad died, my sisters asked if I would say something at his funeral. Dad and I were always joined at the hip, so I felt very honored. As I would visit him, I often wondered what I would say…and then I would begin to write and write some more. The feels poured out, even our butting heads came onto the pages. Then I did something I instinctually, from a cellular level, HAD TO DO. I drove down to see him one afternoon and asked if I could share with him what I was going to read at his funeral. He smiled! I sat beside him, holding his hand and began to read. Tears poured from both of us. I got to say what was in my heart. He knew for years how I felt, but how many time do we really sit down, take the time, and say it…really saying it. Of all the people in the world I wanted to hear those words and not when he passed, it was Dad.
So if you are coming up from under and your foundation has been jostled by the death of a loved one and you hadn’t had the chance to tell them how much they meant to you, here’s something you can do. Take up a journal and begin to write, tell them what he/she meant to you…what you struggled with, issues you wished were resolved. Let it out…grieve… for the healing will take place in time. The ceremoniously burn it outside letting the Universe deliver it.
P.S. I put my letter into Dad’s pocket before he was cremated. My words are always with him.