Last Wednesday, was dad’s rosary, funeral mass and reception. I can honestly say – like so much about this – it was an intense combination of awful and yet wonderful at the same time. The funeral was beautiful. It was such a perfect celebration of who dad. We were so touched that all of dad’s siblings could make it (from Chicago and Connecticut) and one of mom’s sister’s (from South Carolina) joined us as well. For a mid-week, late morning service, the fact that over 250 people came to honor dad is just amazing. What a guy!
Kayliana made quite a scene at the funeral. There we were in the very front pew, with Kayli – in her gorgeous Christmas dress – with her left arm covered in neon hot pink cast (yeah, that’s been going on too). She had an impeccably timed cry (upon seeing one tear escape Mike’s eye – she’s used to seeing my eyes leak, but some liquid coming out of daddy’s freaked her out). This cry brought the house down. It was right after Deacon Frank talked about my dad as “D-dad” to our kids. How they’d said he’s now, “Saint D-Dad.” And a moment later, Kayli let out the most window-shattering sob. The drama. Not a dry eye in the house.
We’d made a picture slide show (Mike, my brother Timothy and I) to play at the reception and had Irish music playing. My Timothy and his wife Rebecca had made beautiful centerpieces for the photo table. They were little glass dishes of all sizes full of sand and shells with a lit candle suspended by wire above each one. Dad always loved the water and the beach. We spent a lot of time there.
Time has turned into a strange phenomenon to me. It’s going too, fast yet I feel like I’m moving at snail-speed. Christmas Eve is a week from today. Normally I’d be beyond excited – thoroughly enjoying every aspect of the Advent season. Obviously, things just aren’t going to be the same this year…and will never be the same again. My new normal has changed. I’ll forever feel this – at least the memory of this – what it was like to have dad die two days before Thanksgiving. This season has been eternally changed. But not for many other people. Other people – while saddened by the loss of their friend or knowing that I’ve lost my dad – they’re affected but obviously not to the depth that we are. They’re still enjoying the holidays. They’re still sending out their joyous Christmas greetings and smiling photos. I had picked what picture would go on ours (down below). But there won’t be a mailed out greeting from us this year. I just can’t do it.
I told Mike that right now the most I can give is about 70% to anything. I have a constant 30% of me that’s just devoted to pain and sadness. I never stop thinking about it. It’s always there. The second someone stops talking (or even while they’re talking) or there’s a lull in activity (or no lull at all) something pops into my head and the pain swells in my heart. I’ll just feel it. Or sometimes I’ll instantly replay three weeks ago today. Especially the morning. Especially when Mike called me on the phone.
I’m going to attempt – today – to go back to my beloved Spin class at the gym. I haven’t exercised in these past three weeks. The irony is, in some ways, I will be recreating that exact morning. I’ll go to Spin and then I think I may actually force myself to go to the shopping center. (I do have a little bit of Christmas shopping to do still and I feel like, well, I might as well go there). The mall where – standing in the parking lot and about to get Kayli out of the car to go in – Mike called and over the phone said the two life changing words, “Your dad.”
That day was awful. That day was hell. And yet, in a weird way, part of me wants to relive it. I don’t want to forget it. I was talking to Rebecca about this – wondering why I’m such a wacko and want to relive the worst day of my life. She, as so often, understood me before I did. She said, “You’re still there. In your heart, you still feel like you’re in that day.”
And that’s exactly it. Everyone else will move on. And I know that eventually this will get easier, this won’t always hurt this much. There have been many, many moments where I’m able to 100% enjoy something – with the 70% of me that’s available right now to experience enjoyment…
People say weird things. Again, I get it. I understand that people just don’t know what to say. The worst? A guy (who I’d just met who was assisting with the catering for the funeral reception) said, “You know, at least you didn’t have to watch him suffer.” [Yes, this is true. I know this.] “He could have gotten really old and miserable like my dad. I had to change his diapers. It was awful. You just hate to see your parent in that situation. Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. He and I both cried the first time I had to change him…So, you know, you just think about that. You think about how you didn’t have to change your dad. Just think about me changing my dad’s diapers.”
Um, no thank you. He literally ended the conversation with this…with this awful painted picture. Thanks, I’ll pass.
Another conversation that sticks out in my mind is with one of my neighbors. Tom said, not in a rude way, but in a quite matter-of-fact kind of way, “You know, pretty soon, all you’ll have of your dad is happy memories. The pain will go away and this will just become part of your life history. It’s part of your story now.”
Yeah. I don’t want it to be part of my story. This part sucks.