Since stepping through the doors here March 28, 2010, at the tender age of 60, I’ve been to more funerals than previously in my entire life. Years in the music industry showed me a lot of stuff; I saw some folks make unbelievable stupid, breathtakingly dangerous decisions with their brains and bodies… and sometimes they paid the full tab with both.
My take on death has been a little different for me, to my way of thinking. I left an alcoholic home when I was young because I couldn’t stand being around an angry, drinking father. It made a lot more sense — and my odds seemed a lot better — to be out on my own. It didn’t make life better; it simply got me away from the house.
I didn’t get any deep healing to speak of with my father until he was on his deathbed in 2007 and I had been called home to care for him. Long story very, very short: No, there were no scores evened. Instead, I bathed him, made sure he took his meds properly, wiped him when necessary, fed him, and helped the nurse change sheets on the hospice bed.
Dad was 90 and suffering from testicular cancer. He was in and out a lot, but when he was in, he was really in, and he knew I was there. And he knew I was there to care for him. And to this day, I hope he knew I’d rather be there next to him doing all that I could for him than be anywhere else. I need to keep telling myself that because on Sept. 25th at 1:30 a.m. when I was drinking yet another Blue Moon and watching Don Henley being interviewed on Charlie Rose (with the sound down), Dad slipped away very peacefully.
I sat there very still and just watched him for about 10 minutes and then quietly said, “That is so like you to beat closing time. Some things just don’t change.”
On the flight back to Indy, my now-Higher Power made a point of nudging me and letting me know my going back to care for him had been The Plan all along. Everything I had in mind prior to that — and apart from that — was just jibberish. I was so deeply comforted by that nudge. Just sayin’.
Bill at the wonderfully readable What…Me Sober? has an excellent post on the mechanics of grieving. Here’s just a sample:
Grief is a strange thing – totally normal, but much feared and even more misunderstood. It comes in stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. They are not negotiable. We go through them or we suppress them. If we suppress them they’ll haunt us for the rest of our lives, keeping us from developing a healthy emotional balance, and we may never know the reasons.
Children may grieve the loss of a parent, loss of parenting, loss of a normal childhood. Adults may suffer the same things, as well as loss of a loved one in later life, loss of a relationship, even such seemingly mundane things as loss of a job. In each case, we need to work through the stages in order, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but the choice is not ours. It happens as it happens.
Those stages go something like, “Oh, no, it can’t be! It’s something else!” “Dammit, if those doctors had only___, or “If she’d just caught the later plane!” “God, if you’ll save him, I’ll___ (fill in the blanks), or “Don’t take them, take me!” Then come the feelings that things will never be right again: I’ll never, we’ll never, this unhappiness will never go away. And, finally (if we allow ourselves to grieve fully), “It is what it is.”
This is good stuff. Seriously. Go read the whole thing. What’s important to keep in mind is to know how we’re grieving, what we’re grieving, who we’re grieving, and why we’re grieving. That’s all part of the healing process.