I’ve been pondering this idea for some time about Parents, and the special place they have in our lives. I’d like to believe, that for most of us out there, the relationship with our parent’s is good, loving, and continues to grow in better ways as we evolve from a child into adulthood. Even if the relationship is faulty, parents anchor us in the world and whether we acknowledge it or not, we are an extension on them. It’s a great loss that impacts us on many levels. Losing a parent is like a right of passage and until you experience it, you can’t begin to understand in what ways their death will impact you.
Parents are good for our growth in all sorts of ways. Just like rain is good for parched lands, we need our parent’s to survive. They teach us so much about how to be in the world. Besides basic needs, our parents teach us how to interact with others, to be giving, to know the difference between right from wrong. They teach us how to ride a bike and how to drive a car and most of all they teach us how to love and how to live. As we become adults we take with us those lessons and tweak them, mold them so they become our own but with the same foundation from where we came. This establishes a sense of belonging and may help us with the moment we most dread, their death.
I’ve seen myself as well as close friends who’ve experienced their parents age and become elderly. Some of my friends parents have gotten sick and have battled disease and others have died. I’ve witnessed the devastating impact that a death of a parent can do. It’s heartbreaking and humbling at the same time to experience the love that exists between child and parent no matter how good or unstable the relationship had been. In my own life I have grieved the death of my father who began to slip away 12 years ago. For him, living with Alzheimer’s was not what he envisioned for himself or for us to witness and to experience. As with any disease, there were good days and there was difficult days. But through it all, I am reminded of the person who taught me to laugh at myself, to dance, to be brave, how to hike in the wilderness and to enjoy life. When they are in the process of dying or have died we reflect, we remember and we realize their love for us has existed all along. While a parent’s death is something that changes us forever we continue to miss and to think of them often.
In the later stages on the disease, my father wasn’t himself most of the time, but sometimes we would get lucky and the person we new would appear, he’d remember our faces, our names for a slice of time before disappearing again behind the veil of forgetfulness. It was heartbreaking to witness and it only increased our continued sadness. It’s as if we were living in a perpetual state of loss. One year ago, my Father lost his battle with Alzheimer’s. I knew his death was coming, but I didn’t know when. As if knowing the specific time would have made it any easier.
I remember where I was when I got the call. It was a busy day at work as our club was preparing for a major event. The news hit me hard and I could feel the emotions rising and my chest tightening. There were tears forming in my eyes but I stuffed down the emotion. I didn’t want to cry at work or seem unprofessional. However, from that moment on I felt numb, I couldn’t think clearly, nothing seemed to matter, and I felt small, SO small. I knew that I had to leave work and fly to be with the rest of my family and that in itself felt daunting. The moment that I arrived home in the presence of my husband I finally felt safe enough to be emotional and allow the news to sink in. I knew that once this was all over that I’d adapt, and I’d continue to push through life.
The death of a parent is never easy and when it comes unexpectedly it can be traumatic. The article below explains just that.
My father had such a special place in my life and was there for me for all my big moments and my small ones. In this first year that he’s been gone I think of him often. So many memories that made him the person that he was. His genuine smile, his love for his family, and his drive for adventure. He taught me to love baseball, the outdoors, perseverance, and the pure beauty of a sunset. He never said no to vanilla ice cream or my Mom’s homemade tortillas. Knowing that he will no longer be able to be here for major life events makes me sad but I’d like to believe that he’s out there somewhere watching over me.
I want you to know that the first year is always the most difficult. Missing their presence in your life never dissipates but it does become easier. You learn to feel and process the emotion as it comes. You will think of them on their birthday, anniversaries, or the holidays.
Even though that anchor has been uprooted, the one thing that you can hold on tightly too is your memories. When those anniversaries or birthdays come again, do something to honor them and to keep the memories alive. For example, my Father loved the outdoors and Mexican food especially hiking and chili verde. On the anniversary of his death my husband and I went on a hike and cooked Chili Verde later that weekend. I was immediately reminded of the special place he had in my life.
So, I ask you;
Have you experienced the death of a parent? If so, how did you cope and how have you kept traditions and memories alive?