Grief's a Bitch

 To be honest, I've been putting off writing this since Fathers Day three months ago. I still don't know if I'm ready to put this out into the world, I may never be, but I think that's even more of a reason to do so. 

You see over the past year, writing has become something I thoroughly enjoy and hate at the same time. I hate it because of how much it takes for me to actually sit down and write something. It's my way to emotionally respond to something in a way I can understand and see, as well as keeping things factual and honest through editing. It's the little exaggerations we tell ourselves that over time, turn into the bigger life changing truths. Which leads me to why I also enjoy writing, it allows me to step outside my head and look at what ever story I'm trying to tell from an analytical and honest perspective. Making sure if I was an outsider who experienced everything second, I couldn't disagree.

Getting back on track, the reasons I've been putting this off for so long is primarily fear and pain. It hurts to go back and try and remember my dad who's been gone for several years now. It hurts even more when I can't remember, what his voice sounded like, the ways his eyes twinkled, his sense of humor, or any of the other subtle nuances of daily life. It's for that reason I HAVE to write this.

Today, 15 years ago, a 13-year-old boy was rushed to the Hospital, only being told his father was in the emergency room. Shortly after he got there, he was faced with a hard truth,  his dad might not live through the night.

I am that little boy, and this is my story.

It was a Wednesday night at youth group when one of the leaders pulled me aside with no reasoning. At first, I assumed I was in trouble for something which wasn't all too uncommon. I had no clue that just a few hours before, my dad, who also happened to be her boss, had a seizure in the middle of a meeting and was rushed to the hospital. 

At this point, no one really knew what was going on but I remember knowing something was wrong simply by the look on her face. She quickly realized I had no clue what had happened and sent me back to the group. For the next hour, everything seemed off. What was normally a fun, well-planned out youth group event was disorganized, frantic even? All the leaders were preoccupied and started huddling together in the corners of the room. At the time I didn't think much of it and continued having a fun night with friends, but as soon as the service was over my life would change forever. 

My best friend and I were walking to where we usually met our parents to head home, but something was missing, more specifically someone, my mom. Not only that but there was a group of adults standing with my friend's dad. As soon as they saw us approach they scattered, trying to pretend nothing was going on.  Although they separated, they continued to look at me. Not just in our general direction, but directly at me.

This was the first time I distinctly remember seeing adults with fear in their eyes, which in turn made me afraid. I knew something bad had happened at looked to my friend's dad for the answers. 

He told me something happened earlier that day, an ambulance came to church and took my dad to the hospital, and my mom asked him to come pick me up and bring me there.

I immediately wanted to vomit.
Chills started at my toes and ran up every inch of my body until they finally consumed me.
It was hard to breathe like my lungs had instantly stopped working.

I was mad, scared, afraid, and confused all at the same time. I didn't understand what was being said, but whatever it was I knew it was true. The problem was I couldn't come up with a single reason why my dad would be sick, and no one would tell me anything. I figured since he exercised every day, people love him, and he worked for Jesus there's no reason he should be sick.

You see thirteen-year-olds don't understand the concept of cancer.

Thinking back I am incredibly thankful and amazed my mom was able to make decisions like that in the midst of her circumstances. I can't imagine what she was going through with her husband of twenty plus years in the hospital, yet her maternal instincts were still able to think about how to handle telling my brothers and me.

The sun had just finished setting as we got in the car. It was an eerie bluish hue as we headed for the hospital and by the time we pulled onto the highway it was completely dark with only the street lamps lighting the way. As we approached the hospital I noticed he wasn’t parking but was pulling under those bright red letter reading 'Emergency Room'. When we made the final turn in the parking lot I noticed shadowy figures shuffling about, there had to be at least a hundred of them. The closer we got, the more silhouettes appeared. As we slowly moved drove through the crowd shadows turned to faces. The faces of family friends, baby sitters, church leaders, and my dad's co-workers. 

At this point life was happening in slow motion, every breath was hard than the last. We stopped directly in front of the door to the ER as it was opening. I opened the car door and the crowd seemed to silence, everyone was looking at me again. They all had that same look a fear and worry I had been introduced to just hours earlier.  I was escorted through that sea of people to the ICU and finally saw the first face of the night that wasn't afraid, my mom. 

There was no fear in her eyes as she stared back at me. Her face was full of confidence and tenderness as she walked towards me and pulled me away from the crowd. Despite the confidence, I could tell she had been crying at some point. She went on to tell me that dad had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball which caused him to have a seizure at work and He was currently in surgery to remove it. Then she leaned in and lowered her voice and said: "but everything is going to be ok."

She continued talking but all I remember is turning around, walking to a private bathroom, locking the door and crying for the first time that day.

My dad was sick and there was nothing I could do about it. My emotions quickly overwhelmed me and I had no clue what to do. It was at that point, as a thirteen-year- old boy, I decided I never wanted to feel that way again. I took all my emotions and feelings, all my fears and insecurities and stuffed them away. I wasn't going to be a slave to my emotions. This seemed like the only option at the time, so I got my self back together and walked out of that bathroom never to look back...or so I thought.

My dad survived that hospital visit and ended up living for about ten more years, but the commitment was already made, emotions were already abandoned, and grieving was out of the question.

The funny thing about grief is that it goes hand-in-hand with healing. Neither happens on their own, they get harder the more time passes by, and the more you ignore them the more they come back to haunt you. 

Fifteen years later and I'm just starting to understand that. I'm starting to heal, but don't completely know how to grieve. I've accepted my dad is gone despite knowing why he had to die.  I'm still sad every time I try and remember him, and then I'm angry when I do because we had such little time. I miss him daily and wish he would have gotten a chance to see me become a man because I know he would be proud. 

I know I'm going to see him again in heaven one day but that doesn't help when I just want to talk to my dad, and to be honest, I still have no clue how to handle that outside of smothering my face in my dog' fur and crying till it hurts. But I'm ok with that, I'm ok with the pain because it already hurts less than it did a year ago. I'm ok with it because I didn't appreciate my dad while he was alive, but I sure as hell am going to now. 

I usually try an end these things with something practical to take away like a step by step process or some form of advice but I got nothing...This one was for me and anyone else who thinks suppressing emotions is easier than fully feeling them. 

How funny that the head knows the heart, knows how it feels and why, but the heart cannot hear the head. It is one-way communication.
— Jedidiah Jenkins