(Warning, I’m talking about parental death in this post, so if you’re sensitive about the subject, please feel free to skip this one if you need to. This is a hard subject at the best of times, and this is not the best of times. Please take care of yourselves, my loves.)
When I was little, I used to love going for walks with my dad. This was complicated, because Dad was 6′ 5″ in his prime, and his legs were so much longer than mine. He’d try his best to go slow enough for me to keep up, or catch up, but it didn’t really work. That’s what this month has felt like. Like I was running, trying to catch up, and he was trying so hard to slow down and wait, to give us more time, but it didn’t work.
Early on the morning of July 7th, exactly one week from the day we found out that his cancer treatment hadn’t done a damned thing, and he was being admitted to the hospital so that they could try and get him strong enough to start another kind of chemo, I held my father’s hand as he took his last breath and was gone. He had tried so hard to slow down and hold on just a little longer, but it didn’t work. The cancer was too aggressive and there was nothing anyone could do to fix it. I sat vigil by his side through that long night, in a darkened hospital room, singing the songs we used to sing together when I was little to him, and the lullaby that my mom used to sing to me, and held his hand and told him that I loved him and that I’d be okay, and counted each breath as he slowed down, like a little wind-up spring toy, until he simply stopped between one breath and another. I had promised him that I would not let him be alone, and I kept my word. It is the most important thing I have ever done, and as much as it hurts, I am glad that I was able to be there for him when he needed me most.
There is a odd kind of peace that comes over you, there in that liminal space where life and death and the infinite meet. A kind of calm, as if you have briefly stepped outside the world and time has no hold where you are. I can’t describe it better than that, but I am glad for its presence. It made a terrible situation bearable, and I will hold that peace in my heart forever.
There was a cheshire moon in the predawn sky when I stepped out of the hospital and back into the world and time, followed by the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. It made me smile, because it was the kind of morning that Dad loved most.
I am as okay as one can expect to be in these situations. Which is to say that I’m a total wreck and I’m swinging between wanting to punch a god, wanting to curl up in a little ball and become an endless pool of tears, relieved that my father is no longer suffering and afraid, and wanting to scream at the world to just. give me. five. fucking. minutes to process what the fuck I just went through. Sadly, I can’t do any of these things, and besides, his lack of will means that I have to deal with getting his house and property through probate, which is going to be a massive part of my life for the next 6 months. There is so much more work involved in probate than people realize, even with my incredibly straightforward situation (I’m the last of my line, and have no other direct relatives who might be able to claim anything, so I get the “easy” probate. It’s still damned near a full-time job, and one that’s currently eating my entire free time and a mind-boggling amount of financial outlay until I can get it through and reimbursed.)
I don’t know what things are going to look like for a while. I wish I did. I’m hoping that today’s round of paperwork will be the last of the major time-sucking portions of this, and that I’ll now be able to get my ass back to work, but the reality is that I just don’t know. I’m in uncharted waters, and I don’t know what the currents are like or where the rocks are. I’m taking this weekend off from any responsibilities besides trying to reclaim my house from the wreckage of a month of not having enough time to deal with anything but the most basic of cleaning attempts. I might knit something. I might throw out half my stuff and redo my entire life’s goals from the ground up because life is too short and precious and I might start over from scratch.
I’m going to try not to do that last part too aggressively, because this close to a major loss is the absolute worst time to make life-changing decisions, but it’s also the best time, because you do see what REALLY matters to you so much more clearly, but yeah, major decisions, not the best time. Might start working on some retooling, though. Might also just sleep for a few days straight. Idk. We’ll see.
Hug your loved ones. Don’t put off the things you want to do. Be kind to one another. Enjoy the sunrises, and the cheshire moons, and the taste of your favorite foods, and just…savor every drop of being alive that you can.