The Grieving Process

In the past year, I’ve lost both of my parents.

Summer of 2008, a day after I received my Just Like Hell comp copies, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer.  The doctors started him on chemo, and five weeks later, we learned the chemo wasn’t helping.  He was given two weeks to live, but he only lasted half that time.

He remained in high spirits, but a few days before he finally died, I saw him give up.  The two of us were eating chocolate sheet cake (his favorite) in the living room.  he took two bites, frowned, and grumbled, “I can’t taste anymore.”  He set the cake aside, closed his eyes, and I never saw him open them again.

I wasn’t supposed to like my dad. He was quiet, friendly, and easy-going, but he also moved to Florida a month before my high school graduation.  He barely ever called or wrote, and our conversations were stilted, clumsy affairs at best, and they reminded me of how clumsy and stilted I am in public, how terrified I am of people and how much I live in my own head.  I didn’t really get to know him until he moved to Texas a few years before his death. I’m very grateful for those years, when I finally realized that I loved my dad.

Almost a year to the day my father was diagnosed, doctors diagnosed my mother with liver cancer and gave her four-to-six months.  Again, they started chemo right away, and again, it was eventually determined that said chemo wasn’t working.  My mother lasted six days after she was told, catching pneumonia and falling victim to it.  Terrible, but better than the three more months of wasting away the doctors had given her.

I talked to my mother three times after she was diagnosed as terminal.  The first two were clumsy, stilted conversations that involved me trying to keep things light while I talked to this woman who was dying a minute at a time.  The third conversation took place after she’d been hospitalized on Saturday.  It was tough to understand her through her oxygen mask, but I got her to chuckle by telling her some stupid joke, and I told her twice that I loved her.  A few hours later, I’m told she closed her eyes and ever opened them again.

I love my mother, this over-protective woman who wished a nasty death on every girl whom refused to date me, this woman I never told about my new motorcycle because she would have spent hours crying about my imminent death.  Now, she’s gone, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting her birthday or calling every week so she won’t think I’m mad at her, and for some reason that just doesn’t feel real to me.
My mother and father are dead, and I don’t know how I feel.  There’s a mixture of sadness and relief, I think.  And fear.  And a desire to close myself off from everything else in the world.  I don’t want anybody else close to me to die.  I don’t want to experience that again.

I’m 32.  Neither of my parents made it past 72.  My life could be half-finished.

My oldest brother is in his fifties.

All I can think of is how desperately I want all of us to live.  Not survive, but live.

I’m going to spend the rest of the day writing and riding and holding Shawna, because those are the things I love to do.  In two days, I have to go to a funeral.  That’s two days in the future, though.  In two days, I can grieve.

Right now, I want to live.

3 thoughts on “The Grieving Process

  1. I am truly sorry for your loss, brother. My best to you and yours in this time of great sadness. For your mother, the Summerland awaits. Godspeed to her on her journey.

  2. Nathan, if it matters I love you very much. Your grieving process is lovely. I am so glad you had these past few years with Dad. He truly loved you, he truly loved all his children. As you know every family has its amount of dysfunction.
    In Dad’s case he was awful as a child. Which in turn carried over to his adult life. He never had a chance to grow and become an adult, as he and your mom met, and had sex and started a family at very young ages. All he ever knew was work and more of it. Never having a good family life as a child he never knew what he was supposed to do, except work, bring home a paycheck, etc.. I am not much consulation for you, but I am here for you anytime you want. Yes we have our stupid moments. Everyone does. Just like you I have felt like crawling into a cocoon and maybe all this pain would go away. Have you really ever just sat and let it all go, I mean really cried your eyes out? Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning when I am sitting on the balcony I hear an owl and it reminds me of Dad and I start to cry. Maybe we both just need to lock ourselves in a room and let it all out. I get angry cause Dad died, then I get sad. We were just beginning to really have a good life. I have never ask that you call me Mom, nor have never expected to replace your MOM, all in all she was a very talented, charming, intelligent woman. But my step son I am here for you anytime you want me. In any capacity. I love you, Nancy

  3. My mom passed away in 2005, at 54, a little over a year after being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. To this day I still have dreams in which she’s getting better, or getting worse. Or that she’s apparently just fine, but in the back of my sleeping mind I’m shouting “wait, this is all wrong, she’s gone.” And then I wake up and for a minute, I’m not sure.

    I miss her terribly. I think of all the stupid things I used to do, like avoiding her Sunday afternoon phone calls, or deciding I’d go to see her “next Christmas.” It’s hard to remember the good times.

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