One thing I’ve noted about grief after the death of a parent from disease, is that it’s different from a romantic or friendship breakup: There was no rejection. It is acute, but in a different way. I wonder at the lack of tears.
But then, I cried quite a bit the day of his death. Not after, but before. I knew it was coming, I was by his bedside, his breathing had become rough, and he was now in a comatose state. His pain made me cry. I couldn’t bear it. Seeing my mom, his primary caregiver, worn out, made me cry.
I had hoped to spend all week spending time with him, watching TV with him since the lung cancer was taking his breath away. But it took him so quickly that he was barely verbal the first couple of days I was there. He’d been fighting two other forms of cancer but beating them. Then the third was discovered, and the nurse gave him only a month. He didn’t even last that long. Even my brothers could barely stand it.
The first day I arrived, a Sunday, he could speak a little, and responded when we all surrounded his bedside. He knew I was there. The second, he managed to say a few intelligible sentences, though you could tell his mind was going. The third, I don’t remember if he spoke at all. The fourth, late in the evening, he left us. As I told my mom, I didn’t have enough time.
Before he passed, I tried to still sort of spend time with him. His bed was in the living room, so I turned on our old favorite shows, as a way to watch them “with” him. He could barely attend to anything now, but Mom kept saying he could hear.
But the day he passed, as I heard his breathing, I began to break down. But after he passed, I didn’t cry anymore. Just once, on the way home after the funeral. Maybe a few tears come to my eyes once in a while.
Maybe it’s because the pain is finally over for him. Maybe it’s because we knew about this possibility for two years, as he battled the cancer. Maybe it’s because the anniversaries haven’t started coming.
Well, actually, they have. Remember how, after 9/11, we referred to it as “Tuesday,” before the first week passed? It took a while before we called it 9/11 or September 11, because it had only just happened. But we’d note it was Tuesday, or a week ago, or whatever.
Well, little things happen: I see it’s the same time of night that he passed. Or I see the date written someplace. Or I think, “It’s been a week.” This evening, it’ll be two weeks. Or I think, “The funeral was a week ago.”
I go about my day normally, attending to things normally, enjoying TV shows and such. But then late at night, or first thing in the morning, I’ll remember. Or a smell will bring it back. Or last night, watching the premiere of Queen Sugar on OWN network, as their father died.
I can understand why men in WWII came home and didn’t want to speak of what happened. You don’t want to remember the bad times. You want to remember the good times. You don’t want to remember the death, but the life.
And yes, I saw and heard things that were traumatizing. I’ve told my husband, I’ve told a friend, and my family saw them too, but I haven’t spoken about them elsewhere. I certainly haven’t written them here.
I just want to remember the good. I want to remember the things which I wrote in Dad’s eulogy.
Pop Evil’s “Torn to Pieces” was based on real-life loss of a father: