When we lose a loved one, we all grieve in different ways. Death, if you let it, can be all-consuming. AND. That is okay. It is important to remind ourselves that “grief is a marathon, not a sprint.”
All too often we expect “the grief” to happen within a specified period of time and then disappear; however, in my experience it comes in waves – and often unexpectedly. In those moments, it is important to extend ourselves grace.
One weekend, my Daddy was crawling around on the floor playing with my toddler and the very next weekend, he was shaky, unstable, and walking very slow and deliberate. This strong and active 66 year old man was now feeble… seemingly in an instant.
Seventy seven days later… he was gone.
“It appears the cancer started in the lung and it has spread to the right adrenal gland, around the liver, possibly in the prostate because PSA levels are high, in his spleen, in the lymph nodes in his chest and lymph nodes in his neck all of which means the cancer traveled through his blood and there are 10 large tumors in his brain and approximately 20 smaller tumors in his brain; the larger tumors are in the back or base of the brain and those are all causing the severe muscle weakness and lack of movement he is experiencing.”
Wow. One incredibly long, run-on sentence took my breath away. The doctor continued that we would need to run more tests to determine what kind of cancer Daddy had: the good kind of cancer that we could fight or the bad kind that will end his life faster than any of us could have ever fathomed.
Yes. He had the bad kind.
Daddy’s terminal cancer diagnosis felt like we were in the twilight zone… where death consumed us (figuratively) long before it happened… for we KNEW it was coming. We knew HOW. We knew WHAT. We just didn’t know WHEN.
We always loved spending time with Daddy, but now time took on a completely different depth of meaning. Every treasured moment with him from that point on was precious as we knew our time had a looming expiration date.
My sister and I agreed that no matter what Daddy asked of us, whether we liked it, agreed, or it made us uncomfortable, we would do it. This was his illness/death and we wanted to provide him as much grace, compassion, comfort, and love as we possibly could. This time was about him. Our entire lives he put us first… now, for the first time, he allowed us, thankfully, to put him first.
Watching my hero diminish into nothingness day by day was excruciatingly painful; mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. With each passing moment, Daddy grew increasingly weaker. He was trapped in a body that betrayed him, yet he had the clarity of knowing what was happening. Death was consuming him; literally.
It was important to hide my tears of pain and fear from my Daddy. I wanted to be as strong for him as he had been for me my entire life. The two hour car rides to visit him (and the two hours back) were my solace providing me time to scream, cry, and beg God for his mercy to help heal Daddy… and eventually the long drives gave me a quiet space to come to terms with my new impending reality. I was indeed losing the most important man in my life; a cold, harsh reality that stung while cutting me to my core.
Witnessing his steady deterioration was the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced in my life…. From preparing to lose my superhero to taking care of all of his affairs and of course wondering how to imagine a world where my baby girl’s absolutely favorite guy (mine too) isn’t here for her. Heart. Breaking. Gut. Wrenching.
God knows what He is doing… even if His will does not make sense, sucks beyond comprehension, and seems grossly unfair. I kept reminding myself, “God gave you this life because you’re strong enough to live it” and “If God brings it to you, He will bring you through it.”
After two days in a comatose state, on Friday December 2, 2016… Daddy passed away peacefully, essentially in his sleep, at 1:40am. A nurse was in the room and saw him take his last breath, so she patted his hand and told him it was okay to go. I’m so incredibly thankful he wasn’t alone when he went with God (as this was one of my greatest fears for him).
When I heard the news… my spirit was crushed… my heart shattered into a million pieces… and there was no room for my ego in that moment of grief and the devastating days that followed…
The outpouring of support from friends and family has been so comforting. I’m in complete awe of everyone’s kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity during such a painfully difficult time. At Daddy’s memorial it was so uplifting to hear great stories of him from his friends and coworkers. He certainly left his positive mark on this world before he left.
One of my dad’s greatest strengths was his honesty and candor which he paired perfectly with his quick wit. He didn’t care if what he had to say wasn’t popular. It was his truth. I’m certainly trying to emulate him and live my truth… in vibrant color. No varying degrees of gray here. No muddying of the waters. Straight up REAL.
Daddy not only gave me life… his life shaped me and his death has changed me. Yes; changed me in ways that I can’t even comprehend in its entirety yet. And again, I remind myself… “Grief is a marathon, not a sprint.”
© Renae Rossman and Candy Coated Reality™