21 January 2008
One Month Ago Today
My father died one month ago today. His death wasn't unexpected, as you may remember he'd been battling cancer for some time, but the speed with which the cancer spread in the last months of his life was much faster than most of us thought it would be. When he was given a terminal diagnosis back in early October, the doctors then said he'd have between six and eight months. He died roughly two and a half months after they told him that.
It's been, needless to say, a tough month. The holidays came and went, and they sucked. I've been mostly reclusive since Dad died, because social situations aren't easy. I feel like I'm either put in the position of having to explain everything over and over again, or pretend like I'm fine and nothing happened. And I'm not able to do either one. So, I've just been avoiding people for the most part. I'm just starting to break out of that pattern, but I can tell it's just going to take some time.
Just before my dad died, a friend told me that the whole five stages of grief thing, the one we've all become accustomed to over the years, has recently been called into question. That while those five stages are generally common to all grief processes, going smartly from stage one into stage two into stage three, and so on, isn't usually how it goes. People move fluidly between the stages, and not always in numerical order. And they also move back and forth, so "progress" isn't always in one direction, either. In my experience with my father's illness and his dying process, I can verify that while those stages of grief look good on paper, the whole thing feels very muddy in real life.
There were tiny bits of silver lining that came with my father's death, thankfully. For one, Chris and I were scheduled to leave for the holidays on the 22nd of December, but we weren't yet in transit or on the other side of the country when we got the call that he'd gone into the hospital. We were able to cancel our travel plans, drop everything else and be in the hospital for two days. I shudder to think of the panic I might have felt if I were 3,000 miles away and unable to get back in time.
Related to that, I'm also incredibly thankful that my brothers were also able to drop everything and be there. My father died surrounded by his three children, his "favorite" son-in-law (that's what he always called Chris), and his wife. And as devastating as it is to lose a parent, I'm so proud of all of us that we were able to be there for him. My father, always the teacher, was giving us all life lessons up to and beyond the moment he died.
My brothers and I are planning a memorial gathering for Dad in early February, and as an homage to one of my father's humorous quips we're having it in a Chinese restaurant. See, he was a cultural Jew, even if he was an avowed atheist from adolescence onward, and he had a saying - "Jews can't eat pork. Unless it's in Chinese food." He loved his Chinese food with pork, so we're going to eat it in his honor. We'll be surrounded by people who knew and loved Dad, and who will have funny and wonderful stories to share. And, I'm finding, it's nice to have that to look forward to.
I have some other future-oriented good news which also makes "looking forward to" something easier, but I'll save that for another post. For now, I just wanted to take this moment to remember my father, who died one month ago today.