It’s that time of year again—tomorrow is the sixteenth anniversary of my dad’s death. It was all I could do to haul myself out of bed this morning and get my day started. My parents were killed in a car accident those many years ago, but I must confess it doesn’t feel like sixteen years. Some days, I feel like it was yesterday and on others, I feel like I was hatched out of an egg and never really did have parents. Funny how feelings change relative to other things that are happening in life.
As a result, my parents are frozen in time for me, Dad at age 65 and Mom at 60. Some days, I am envious of people who still have their parents around. At other times I watch my friends struggling to get proper care for aging parents and I feel guilty relief that I don’t have to worry about this problem. There was a point in time (shortly after both funerals) where I really couldn’t see any good coming out of the situation, but I have come to realize that we have to find the good and celebrate it.
The best thing that I got out of the whole awful experience was a new relationship with my sisters. I am the oldest surviving child and five years older than the next sister—meaning that I had moved away from home before either of my sisters were in high school. When you are young, five years is a big difference. Now, in our forties and fifties, it feels like nothing! After leaving home I lost touch with my sisters, getting their news relayed via Mom in the weekly telephone call. The ‘motherized’ version. Now, I enjoy regular telephone chats and visits with both sisters and I’ve come to know them as complete people. I count them among my best friends and feel very lucky to have that privilege.
I also realize how quickly life can change. One day everything is fine and there are no storm clouds on the horizon. The next day, the roof has been ripped off your house, the rain is pouring in, and there’s no end in sight. It’s important to do the things that are important to you every darn day. Don’t wait until you retire, until you lose weight, until you get married, or until anything. Go, do those things. Now. I mean it. Visit someone you’ve been missing. Write a letter, make a phone call, send an email. Plan that trip you’ve always dreamed of. Start that project that’s been calling to you. Live your life as if it will end soon—it might.
I value life much more now and going through this massive grief experience has made me braver. If I can survive that, what are these other puny problems by comparison? I have realized how much strength I inherited from both sides of my family. Whatever life may bring my way, I will find a way to handle it.
I miss my parents every day. I love hearing stories from relatives and friends about things that they did, even little things. It always gives me new perspectives on who they were as people, something that, as a child, one doesn’t often appreciate. There are so many things I wish I could ask them or tell them. Occasionally, the thought still passes through my mind, “When I phone Mom…” Where do those thoughts come from after all this time?
In the end, I grieve greatly because I loved greatly. And love is really what it’s all about.