It was 5:00 a.m. when the phone rang and…
People just don’t call you that early in the morning unless it’s bad news. It was my mother.
She was choking back tears trying to form words that could only mean one thing….
My dad was dead.
I’m not sure what she even said to me. I just know that I’ve decided since then that telling someone their loved one has died, passed, or is gone, is the most excruciating thing you could ever have say to another person. It must have taken my mom some time to call. Did she think about what she was going to say first? Did she even have anyone with her? All I know is she must have stores of courage that others don’t. She had lived long with the knowledge that Dad’s passing was imminent but even with acceptance, the shock of someone’s passing is still too much for a soul to bear alone, let alone speak about.
I don’t remember much about the next day or two but on the third day, I remember going to the funeral home to see my Dad’s body in a casket. It was my birthday, so my mom and brothers and I met up for my birthday dinner. Didn’t feel much like eating but we did anyway. My mom still wanted to celebrate my birthday. I guess she just carried on for all of us. She always has been that kind of mom…. amazing.
The moment came for us to enter the room where my Dad’s body lay. Do you know the feeling you can get when you really don’t want to go into a room? Your body tenses, you sweat and feel nauseous like you could faint? It was like that for me only worse. I felt my soul was going to bottom out much the way I felt the day I turned around for just a moment and then couldn’t find my son…. That sinking, anxious, panicked feeling where I barely knew how to breathe. I just know that nothing could ever have prepared me for that moment. GOD…. NO!!!!
My dad is NOT dead!!!!!
Of course I couldn’t let the others see me not being brave so, I walked up to where my dad lay and touched him like, “Hey.. he’s not here, so can we go…?
I didn’t want to be there. Yet.. here I was. Here we all were celebrating my birthday (yep… weird) and here was my dad laying there in that thing. He was just laying there.
The next day was the actual funeral and most of it was a blur except I think I squeaked out a song to sing acapella. I’m pretty sure there was a pastor who talked about the afterlife and about my dad and his life here on earth. He said I was the “apple” of my dad’s eye. I guess that means something special but I’ve never completely understood it.
I had nightmares about my dad both before and after he died. I used to wake myself up crying which if you have never experienced that before, it’s almost frightening and really quite astonishing how your sleeping body can cry for you when your waking body can’t seem to.
Life goes on though. That’s what people want to happen anyway. For me my life did in so many ways. I mean, I was a married, stay-at-home mom, doing well and then about 10 years after Dad’s passing I remember hitting a wall, and feeling so ripped off. My dad missed everything. He. Missed. Everything!
Isaac’s birth. Anna’s adoption. Kyle’s shows. The kids’ concerts, events, celebrations and …what about my opera singing? Dad missed my singing. The opera he spoke about for years before I actually ever sang an aria… He missed it. He is still missing things. All the amazing things I’d like to share with him about one of my kids. He’s not a part of it… not really. I sometimes try to convince myself he is but the truth is, I haven’t felt him for a long time. Unless you know someone that has passed away, that idea may not make much sense to you but many people think there is a period of time when you feel like your loved one is still with you. I haven’t felt that way for a long while. I also lost dad so early in life that the memories I have of him regrettably are so few. I used to purchase a Christmas ornament in memory of him every year. I would make my selection based on something we did together. I feel like I’ve run out of memories.
This thing called “death” took so much away, and just exactly how does life go on after “death” anway? How do I answer that? Especially since I believe in life after death. I believe with all my heart that I will see my dad again. I believe the scripture that says “He that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live.” But to answer the question about how to go on, is another thing.
The truth is, there is not an easy way to answer how life goes on. There is no minister on earth that has the “message” that will save you either. I don’t mean the gospel message. I mean the one message that tells you exactly how life will go on for YOU. That message is something you so badly want to hear from the one who is now gone.
I’ve been one of the lucky ones. I’ve had a mother who choked back all life threw at her and still managed to find a way to celebrate, and even celebrate me in the middle of all the excruciating details. I miss my dad. I’ll always love and miss him. But I have been so blessed with the kind of mother who shows up for all our families events, hosts all our holidays, swallows tears to be brave for us and after 25 years of carrying on without my dad, has shown all of us how to live, how to live well and how sometimes life isn’t about having answers to questions like how to go on living… sometimes the answer lies in the gentle “this is the way life goes”.
Lori Anne and Lenora, celebrating life, tea and Downton Abbey at Lenora’s lovely home on Lake Tapps.