Grief is weird. I lost my Dad earlier this year and most days, I’m fine. He was chronically ill for 13 years, and even though I miss him, I am glad he isn’t sick anymore. Often, I remember him with a smile on my face by listening to old country like John Conlee or Ronnie Milsap (we used to jam out to their 8 tracks) or by eating an extra piece of coconut cream pie in his honor (his fav and mine, too).
Today, I drove by the OK Heart Hospital and all of the memories of last holiday season came flooding back. I felt my chest tighten and my breathing got shallow as all of the feelings came back. My Dad was there, gravely ill, and we were told it was probably the end of his life. I vividly remember Christmas Eve and the days leading up to it. Everything was going wrong, he had mystery internal bleeding, and they didn’t really have any answers without doing exploratory tests that he wasn’t strong enough to withstand. I had been asked to do a reading during one of the candlelight services at church but I had to tell them I wasn’t sure I could make it. I remember thinking about what I was going to tell my kids if their PaPa passed away on Christmas Eve or Christmas. The doctors told us it wasn’t looking good and that we should call the extended family. Somehow, by the grace of God, I made it through my reading at church and he made it through Christmas.
True to my Dad being the toughest person I’ve ever known, he continued to fight. He made it through the rest of the year, and even got to come home. He passed away in February after too many times of us being told that he probably wouldn’t be with us much longer. He survived an aortic dissection, a stroke, cancer, and too many other things to list.
I’m a “glass half full” kind of person. I believe that we are very blessed to have had 13 bonus years with my Dad, after his aortic dissection because most people don’t survive those. I’m so happy he was around to meet my husband, watch Kyle grow up, and meet Griffin. I thank God for that extra time.
Grief is weird. Most days, when I think of my Dad, I do it with a smile on my face, and a giggle in my throat, thinking of the crazy adventures we had together. But every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of something that instead of happy memories, brings back the pain of countless hospital stays, bad news, suffering but never complaining, watching my Mom struggle through years of care giving, setback after health setback, and it hits me like a swift kick to the chest.
I’m trying to make the most of this holiday season in our new home and having fun decorating a new place. But I know he will be missed when it comes time to open presents this year.
I guess this is why they say grief is a process. Some days are good, but some are harder than others. For now, I’m going to sing some “Smoky Mountain Rain” and “Rose Colored Glasses” in the shower at the top of my lungs to wash away a little of the tightness still sitting in my chest.