Three weeks ago today I wrote “Father Died Today.” I haven’t posted on this site since then as it didn’t seem right without first writing a follow up, sort of a closure, post. But then how does one reach closure? I’m still open.
I haven’t attended many funerals. As my parents’ large contingent of siblings slowly passed away (and yet probably 8 or more remain) I was too far away to make it there for the services. Sometimes I was in other countries, although I did fly back from Brussels to attend my grandmother’s funeral. At 102, she had been the sole matriarch for many decades and I had to be there. Needless to say, I made the trip for my father.
Unlike my mother, my father wasn’t a particularly religious man so it seemed a bit incongruent to have a minister reading psalms during the service. And yet, it helped. After my older brother eulogized our father with words showing the depth of our family’s ardor, I was asked to speak a few words of my own. I told the story of us fishing together (mentioned in my previous post), and another I haven’t written about on these pages yet. We all considered him a great man. The attendees agreed.
After writing my previous post I hadn’t followed my usual routine of posting the piece to my social media platforms. Instead I simply posted a photo of my Dad from a few years ago onto my personal Facebook page. I said nothing other than to put his birth and death dates in the caption. This was to be my personal tribute. I was surprised, however, to receive over a hundred comments from friends and family. Most had never met my father but sensed his importance to me. Those who had met him said nice things. Those who knew him best expressed their love and affection. This pattern continued at the funeral service as friends and family repeatedly said he was a special man. It was nice to know that he was well loved by all.
My older brother lived a bit closer than me and was able to be there for Dad’s final labored hours. His presence helped my mother through the initial flood of excruciating grief, and he was there for her to lean on through the necessary funeral arrangements. After a long drive, I arrived the day after he passed away and spent the next 10 days with my family. After the funeral my brother had to return home; he had taken a sudden week off as President/CEO of a non-profit organization, and duty called. I stayed on to help my mother with the long list of other paperwork to be handled, and simply offer the further support of my presence. The following week was Independence Day and the traditional gathering at my grandmother’s former house (now my Aunt’s) for the parade and luncheon. It was helpful to have Mom there with dozens of friends and family.
At one point that day an uncle, Mom’s youngest brother, told me to remind my mother she could call him anytime. As he moved to walk away he suddenly stopped, turned, and said: “You can call me anytime too, you know.”
It was then I realized I hadn’t allowed my own emotions to surface during all this time. Sure, I broke down into an embarrassing blubber when I first heard the news, alone in my house hundreds of miles away, but my focus during those 10 days was on Mom. Only at that moment, when my uncle offered his emotional support for me, did it hit me that not only had my mother lost her husband of 66 years, I had lost my father of a lifetime. I managed to avoid of repeat of my earlier blubbering, but my eyes did well up and my breathing labored. [As they did just now typing this]
The next day I made the long drive back home. Since then I’ve periodically felt the loss slap me in the face. Reading a novel in which the main character visits his father with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home slapped me. Random thoughts slap me. Writing this piece has slapped me several times. Ru, who lost her own father to cancer at a much younger age, has helped me keep perspective.
To be honest, I feel a little silly expressing this, especially when many around me had lost their fathers or mothers or both long before I was faced with the situation. In a way, their experience with loss has helped me learn that while the memories and pain never quite go away, all of us gets through it and lives the lives our lost loved ones would have wanted us to continue living. Meanwhile, my mother again is my primary focus. My older brother and I, who both always called routinely anyway, have taken to calling more frequently. While I was still in my home town I helped my mother sign up for a day-long bus tour with the local Council of Aging. She will continue living. Several of her siblings are still around and all live locally. Add in both old and new friends and there is plenty of support to help get her through these initial stages without my father.
So is this closure? Probably not. But I need to refocus, regroup, renew, just as I’ve been encouraging my mother to do. It’s been difficult getting back into writing mode after all the recent travel and Dad’s passing, but I must. Today I took the first step in getting a routine going again. Tonight I’m writing this divulgence. Tomorrow I’ll set a timetable. I miss him, but I also know he would want me to continue.
Pater mortuus est, vivat filius.
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.