Monday, May 25, 2015

The Part We Don't Talk About -- Natalie D. Richards

Today is Memorial Day, which doesn't seem to have much at all to do with growth.  Memorial Day is for remembering, right?  This is a day to look back, to cherish old memories and place flowers and little plastic flags on graves.  I think it's critical to remember and honor the men and women who've served our country.  I think it's critical to remember all the people we've lost.

I'm remembering today, too.  Eleven years ago, I lost my mom to lung cancer.  About three months ago, I lost my dad to melanoma. 

Ouch is right.

Needless to say, this isn't going to be a post with snarky artwork and wokka-wokka one-liners.  But it IS going to be on topic.  Eventually.

See, here's the thing about death that no one tells you.  It doesn't end at the funeral.  In fact, the funeral is quite easy.  You're incredibly busy calling people and gathering photographs and doing Very Important Things.  The busy of it fills the hours, holding real grief back with one hand. 

The pain really hits after the funeral.  One day you take a breath or open your fridge or walk outside and it's just...different. For the first time, none of it feels like a bad dream.  It feels like reality.  You loved them, and they're gone.

When Dad died, I wrote in his eulogy that I felt like my foundation had been washed away, that my pain was oceans deep.  Three months later, it still is. Good loss support groups will tell you that grief is a journey and that it often comes in waves.  The world is different now, and it takes time to adjust.

Most people know, or at least suspect, that losing a parent changes you.  The thing no one tells you is that you will grow.  Hard things do that to a person. 

Know what I know about growth?  It hurts.  If you work out to build muscle, those muscles are sore as crap the next day.  A baby learns to walk?  Sure, after he falls down four hundred times.  You finish your first novel?  I bet you've spent a lot of late nights writing until your hands and wrists were burning when you could have been eating pizza and watching Blacklist. 

I still miss my mom every day.  Every. Single. Day.  But my mom's death was the catalyst for me becoming a professional writer.  I learned that life is precious and limited, that dreams can slip through your fingers if you don't hold on tight. 

Don't get me wrong.  I'd have never traded my mom for these changes, but death, like many hard things, doesn't leave you with a choice in the matter. 

Today, I'm smack dab in the middle of the grief journey with my dad.  I was incredibly close to him.  He was smart and funny and grumpy and in so many ways, the best friend I've ever had.  Some days, the pain is so big it terrifies me.  How is this going to work without him?  Who the heck am I now that I'm not a daughter?

I have absolutely no idea.  But I'm pretty sure I'll find my way.  I'll learn things about myself, about the world, and about my dad.  I will grow, and I am so grateful for that. I'm not sure there's a better way to honor him.

Dad, Karen, and Me in a monkey hat


6 comments:

  1. Wishing you comfort and peace, and hope that you are always able to feel the love they gave you, still with you.

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  2. They may no longer be physically present, but you'll ALWAYS be their daughter. You are the best parts of both of them. In you, and in your beautiful children, they will always live on. Lots of love, and prayers of comfort and strength to you Natalie. Love you so much friend-girl! <3

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  3. I'm sorry for your losses. Sending peace your way.

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  4. Oh Nat. Thanks for sharing this. Love you.

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  5. Thanks all....it was a lovely weekend all in all. Planted a tree. Got a bunch of yard things done. Weather was perfecto, so it was not doom and gloom by any stretch! :)

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  6. I shared your post with a close friend who lost her dad in January. She said she loved it through tears and would be sharing it with her siblings. Thank YOU for sharing and helping others who can relate.

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