It has almost been a month since my Dad passed away and I'm still sorting out my feelings. Sadness, relief and joy surge through my body at various times through the day. I've even stopped a few times and really concentrated - am I ignoring my grief? It feels so different than my experience with my Mom. Then I realized. It has been different. For starters, I am older - a tad more mature and sadly more accustomed to what emotions you experience when a parent dies. When my Mom died, every new emotion would bring on a shower of tears and a frantic call to a few long suffering family members and friends. This time, I know it will pass. Things will go back to the new normal. The life where I can't call my Dad. And surprisingly - I am okay with that. He was sick for so long, that I'm relieved my nightly prayers don't include a plea for him to not feel pain or sickness. I'm joyful (and a tad jealous) that he finally is in a place where he no longer misses my Mom - he's by her side.
In a way - my grief has been a lot like my Dad himself. Quiet and unassuming and a laugh with a few tears thrown in there. And really - the tears have been few. Another surprise but then again - my Dad was a man that didn't like anyone to fuss over him - even in death. He really didn't like to inconvenience anyone. There have been a few raw moments where the tears come but those are for me to know and appreciate. Truthfully, I had a much harder time when he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I have had a lot of time to deal with the eventual reality that he would not be with us much longer. And in the past few years he was around long enough to see me get married and have children - I am so grateful for that.
His service was beautiful and joyous. Can you call a funeral joyous? Hmmm. Yes, you can. And his was. It was the type of funeral I would like to have someday. A funeral with a lot of laughter and very little sadness. The type of gathering where loved ones come together and the fruits of your life are happiness, laughter and knowledge that the world was a better place because of your efforts. Where a lot of people remember you because you liked to tell jokes and stories, read books and just connect with people. Just because you were happy with the lot you had in life - which in this day and age is a very rare gift indeed.
If you had ever met my Dad, he would have tried to make a connection with you. But if he didn't know you or your parents - he at least was aquainted with someone from your family or hometown. Or knew of a distant ancestor that somehow made you related to him. It helped that he had an insane memory that allowed him to store such knowledge. But it was one of the funny habits that my Dad had and every once in a while - I catch myself doing the exact same thing, "Oh, I knew your sister in law's parents - we met once in the 6th grade." My memory is now riddled with holes because of pregnancy and new motherhood - so I doubt I'll catch up with my Dad in terms of memory.
In a few ways I feel like my life has come full circle. I used to wonder if my Dad felt sad because none of his children knew his father. My Grandpa Brown passed away shortly after my parents were married, so none of us had ever met or known him. And now I know how he felt. For my Mom and Dad's sake. My children did get to meet my Dad a few times. We spent some quality time with him this summer where he liberally showered them with kisses. But they'll never get to go through his pockets and find about a dozen Dum-Dums. Or change for candy. Or have him tease them and ask them if their name is Rumplestilskin. But that's okay because I can tell my children stories about my parents and their wonderful qualities. Just like I remember hearing about Grandpa Brown.
So in the aftermath I have taken away a few valuable lessons. I try on a daily basis to think - What would my Dad do? Would he be overly concerned that his house is messy or would he simply enjoy these little babies? Would he maybe check email while I bounced one? Or would he just wait until those little babies were napping and instead spend their awake time cuddling, kissing, tickling and simply playing with my babies? The answer is pretty obvious. For a man that had 11 children and 39 grandchildren - he really was a nut for babies. Thank goodness. I hope I can pattern my life after his. Maybe not the 11 children part - but the part where you are generally just happy with your life :) Love you Dad!
Ps - these are awesome pictures that my sister in law Elizabeth took shortly after my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. I think that everyone should get themselves a talented sister in law. :) Thanks E, I love these photos!