For almost a year now I have been dealing with anxiety and though I suspected what it was from, I didn’t truly want to face it or deal with it. Because if I did, it would kind of be like saying goodbye.
My dad died 11 years ago. And though I talk about it openly and freely with many people I have never really faced all that runs through my head at different times.
Two weeks before dad died a co-worker’s mother passed away. It was a pretty rough year for the employees where I worked, in a 12 month period 7 of us lost someone very close to us, 6 were parents who passed. When this co-worker’s mom died I remember thinking to myself-when this happens, I will be okay. It’s the natural order of things. And that statement was the exact wording I told myself. And that statement slapped me ass backwards two weeks later.
Dad was a son and brother, a husband and a friend before he was a dad. But that’s all I know him as. Dad. My dad. Though seven others have that proprietorship on him. I don’t usually say our dad, I say my dad. My dad died alone. He died in his sleep. There were no outward signs of stress or suffering when we found him. We being me and my sister. By writing this out I think I am trying to let my dad go. Not let go of him but let him go from here to where he needs to be. Figuratively I need to let him be free from the burdens I have placed on him. Because of my own fears and worries.
A friend of dad’s called to say she was worried because he had not shown up where he was suppose to be. Tara and I went to check on him. We took our house key. Dad kept the house locked when he was in it, when he was gone, all the time. We knocked first and he didn’t answer. On the surface this did not worry me. I have gone to see dad before and gotten clear in to his bedroom and had to wake him up to talk to him, he slept well, dad did. So we go through the basement door. The smell of gasoline and musty basement smell was familiar and somewhat comforting in an odd way. It still is if I ever come across it unexpectedly. Fortunately the smell of Old Spice is the best smell as it reminds me of dad. The gas and musty smell remind me of the house. We make our way upstairs, I was calling “dad” because I didn’t want to scare him. If he was asleep and heard people coming in the house it would startle him for sure. It would me.
I led the way, the bedroom was dark so I quietly walked up to the bed. All I could really see was the white of his t-shirt. Tara was behind me in the doorway. I was saying “dad” quietly to wake him up. He did not respond. Tara flipped on the light. She screamed which startled me because what the hell was she doing- she would wake him up. She realized long before I did that he was gone. She ran out of the house, I followed her to the front door but did not leave, I didn’t want to leave him alone. I went back in the house. I went in the door way and knew I should say a prayer for him. I could not put any words together. I think I went on my knees in the doorway of his bedroom, but I can’t be sure of that now. But I do know I prayed, the best and only prayer I could manage. I prayed “oh God oh God oh God”. I think God felt my heart breaking and my total being consumed by fear. How do you lose your dad? The world is safer because of your dad. Or your mom. Or your grandparent. Right?
I know Tara went running up the lane. But where was everyone? I picked up the phone and called 911. I told them I thought my dad was dead, but I still was not sure of this. I spoke softly because I did not want dad to hear me say that.
The rest of the evening I remember clearly but I don’t want to write about my brothers and sisters pain. It’s not fair. So I won’t go there in too much detail.
But that night was the first night of my life without dad. Every time I closed my eyes I saw him there, sleeping. But he wasn’t sleeping. I did not sleep for three nights. I tried to. I was exhausted. I wanted to. But I couldn’t. He died in his sleep. He died alone. And he should not have. He had eight of us for crying out loud. Why did he have to be alone? I beat myself up for that every time I think of dad. And I think I might hold that against him. How could he leave us without saying good bye? How could he not want to be around us more, so we would have more of him after he was gone? How could he just die?
Of course I know some of the reasoning behind those questions. But I also really want some answers. I don’t blame him for dying. It’s not our plan, we go home when we are called.
But him dying alone has caused me grief. Me. I have thought and thought about his last moments. I don’t for a minute believe he died alone in the greater sense of the word. I know he was greeted by love like we don’t quite understand here. He didn’t leave here alone, but he was alone here. I have worried and worried that he opened his eyes before he left here and none of us were there. It has pained me for many years. But I believe in God’s love. If there was suffering or pain, it is gone and replaced with the love of our Father.
What has caused me even greater grief, and leads, I believe, to my anxiety. He did not say good bye. He did not have those few seconds to look at one of us, all of us, and say good bye. He was just gone. And now when I go to sleep, I don’t fear waking up to a better world. I fear not being able to say good bye to this one. And it keeps me awake. And it keeps me worried. I know I have spent a lot of time thinking dad died with regrets, or sorrows, or wrongs in his life that he never got to fix or repair or make right. I have also come to the conclusion that that is pretty arrogant of me. How dare I judge his life like that? I did not know my dad’s heart except for how it addressed me, and that was with love. But I cut myself a little slack by also admitting that all of the things I think about dad and his dying, comes from my own fears and how I apply them to my own life and living. Assuming that my thoughts and fears must be how others obviously think and feel. I applied my own fears to dad’s life. I’m sorry dad, I should never have done that.
Let me tell you, it was a rude awakening when I realized you didn’t all think just like I did!
But in reflecting on all of this and trying to sort out my anxiety I realized that part of my fears of not being able to say good bye is a greater fear. That if I die, I will leave my children and David and all the people in my life feeling like I do now. Did I do enough to tell everyone what they mean to me? Did I tell everyone how much the things they did made a difference in who I am? Did I do enough to make this world better than when I arrived here. Which by the way was a lesson dad taught us when we went different places, leave it looking nicer than when you got there. Did I do that? Did I pick up my own litter? Did I help anyone else pick up theirs if they needed help? Did I give of myself, or did I demand or take too much? Did I love the people I love, or did I take advantage of those who loved me? When I leave this world, God please don’t let it be worse because I walked here.
My anxieties are that I will die in my sleep. But that I will die in my sleep not living MY life the way I want. It has been a long time since dad died, but he still teaches me every day. He makes me think and tries to get me to learn. I spent a lot of years since his death thinking dad was kind of stuck. Not letting go of us so he could go on to a life of eternal peace. I felt he was stuck in the middle.
I’m trying to tell him good bye and come to terms with his leaving, and our loss of him. But I have to face the very difficult truth. It is me who is stuck. I’m stuck on a moment in time that is brief by any standard. That brief moment where he lay down to sleep here. Breathed his last breath here. And took his next breath in the Kingdom of God. With the Creator of Heaven and Earth. If I am to be fully honest I have to face that dad’s death has made me fearful of my death because I worry that I am not doing all that I should or could be doing in this life. I can do more. I can do better. I can love better. I can live better. It is not my last moment on life here that matters, it is what I do with every moment and opportunity I have up to that moment. Did I optimize them? Did I use them?
I want to live my life so that if I don’t have the opportunity to say goodbye I know that my life confirmed to those I love and appreciate, that I do-love and appreciate them.
I want to let dad go. He deserves that. I knew dad loved me. I know he loves me still. I owe him this and he deserves it, good bye dad.