The human condition is well fashioned from personal perceptions brimming with grief and loss. I remember from my youth seeing my Grandpa, or at least his body, lying in a coffin on the evening of the visitation after we had torn across country in the Chevy to be with my mother's very large farming family. How could he be dead? I love him!!!!! I cried so many tears, so many tears.....
A childhood introduction to grief and loss up close and personal is a stark beginning to this episode of existence we refer to as life. Wondering how could he be gone, where did he go, what about Grandma, will I wind up there soon, and is it awful lying in a coffin thus- are questions which ran on a loop through my infantile cerebrum as clear liquid, salty, and which made my eyes burn, pour profusely down my cheeks. I felt ALL ALONE that night, all alone, in a room overfilled with people as my Grandpa lay silently just there. Not out of reach at all. And hadn't it only been a few months ago he had visited us in Colorado and he and I gathered blue bells to hold for a photo op while our alternate hands held large and very COLD snow balls. Tht photo is etched into the album of my mind, always ready to replay at a momentary command. My Grandpa.
Not long in life terms later..... maybe seven years or so, my absolute favorite cousin passed from a car wreck on I-70 driving his favorite Chevy Belair. His speed was high, so I am told. The results produced a closed casket affair. Me? Well, I was not allowed to attend, because my mom wanted the time to be with her sisters, and since I was a boy.... well, it did not suit for me to have been so shaken up. Not a manly thing, that. Grief. Chapter Two.
Three more grandparents in a row passed through the years, and as I attained greater age, wealth, and maturity I could take hold of the reins and attend to situations confering love and blessing on those who had loved me BEFORE they passed.... you know, being aware of their enfeebling health in advance of that long awaited appointment with mortality. I could leave on a jet plane and very quickly be at their side sharing my love of them. This I did, wanting each to know of their impact on my life and the joy I gained from their presence..... in doing this, I seemed to gain overwhelming peace as the moments of their passing came, then blew into the detritus of history as leaves along a deserted country road. So glad I took time for those very special people IN ADVANCE.
Almost two years ago now.... though there had been a good many more passings in between, our first grandchild, a little girl- Lilly her given name- passed through our lives as a lit match, especially the paper kind, rushes on toward its terminal extinguishment. She had developed with an awful genetic mishap in formation; one of those, who would have guessed kind of happenings. She came stillborn. I bawled as my insides melted then poured out not unlike the sorrow I had felt as a child when Grandpa, my flower gathering friend, passed. Lilly was here, but not here, we held her fleetingly so the sterility of hospital protocol might rapidly thereafter sweep in to whisk away remains..... simple that, the word remains. A little life prepares us for unparalleled joy, is swept away, and there are merely REMAINS where only a couple of weeks before we had known there was a kicking baby, felt still in mama's tummy. Sorrow without end in sight, the supply seemingly "tacky restaurant" style unlimited refills. The well of sorrows was creating a flood.
Far more recently, I learn last night with my family my Dad has untreatable inoperable cancer. Were he physically healthier we might be thinking in terms of treatment. Not so here.
Dad has that Alzheimers bug. You know the one.... many fear it so badly, they shun families affected by it for fear, seemingly, of contracting a non-infectious disease. Shunning. Shame. The really good stuff of which our society which comes together to spend millions following a popular cause or political gnat turns on a dime to pour separation, shame, indignance, and yes shunning upon folks who bear the calamity of something as insidious as Alzheimers.
Grief. Loss. I definitely felt Grief and Loss when, three years ago, Dad no longer remember I existed. For me, THAT was the day he died. In the meantime, the operating shell of his body continued to perk along. Sure, there were the haltingly embarassing moments of Dad coming outside to see family members off after a visit. He was attired in one of Mom's dresses. Seems he thought it was his bathrobe........ recently equipped with a back zipper. And, he who was a smart fellow engineering wise now polices the lawn of the family home for fallen leaves. It sounds pretty good, except upon realization he putters about the lawn with trashbag in hand picking ONE LEAF at a time from the grass to place it gently into the bag. This is not the person who was my Dad.
Cancer. Used to be that was feared more than Alzheimers. Not so now. Stir them up in the same body, and a rapidly terminal situation is at hand.
Last night, after learning of Dad's terminal illness on top of his terminal illness I sat and remain totally numb. The man I knew as Dad passed mentally three years ago. His body lingers. Lingering will now be accelerated to a finish line. I did not feel like crying. I worked through much grief and loss when Dad mentally died.
Now we wait.
Time will reveal the toll the blended diseases will exact upon my Dad. Will I cry? Are my tears all spent from grieving his loss years earlier? That broke my heart. This, I see as a release of Dad finally from the prison of mental morbidity in which he has been trapped these many years. A blessing as it were.
This road of grief and loss is now far too familiar. The losses have been far more numerous than detailed in this post. The road is one I do not like so much and it has potholes, cracked pavement, and the bridges are not so nice anymore. Familiarity is breeding a sense of discontent not complacence. I hope heaven will bring far more joy to Dad than these most recent of years.
Gonna pull the "car" over to the side of this road just now, I am tired, rest needed. Think I will just turn the key off for a while and sleep.
Grief and Loss consume my strength.
Even so, I am blessed,