When your father dies some say you lose your biggest fan. Some say your childhood ends.
The thing is — when your father dies, it doesn’t matter that other people’s fathers have died, that fathers have been dying since human time began. What matters is that he was your father. Your one and only father. The loss is unique and yours alone.
When your father dies, people say many things. Things like: Sorry for your loss. Condolences to you and your family. May he rest in peace. He is in a better place. Our prayers and thoughts are with you.
It’s not easy to remember all the words, but you will remember the kindness and know that death is not easy for them either.
When your father dies, close friends and extended family become very important and comforting because they know your story and his more intimately and fully than most.
When your father dies, it feels impossible. How can a man who has defied medicine for 40 years, delivered babies, was a Navy Captain, saved lives, had two last right blessings… finally succumb to something so human as death? Heroes in stories don’t die.
When your father dies, and you weren’t there with him, you might carry that like a permanent hole in your heart. Something you’ll get used to, but part of you will always know it’s there.
When your father dies, and you were with him, you will be grateful you were holding his hand when he took his last breath…and still think of all the things you meant to say.
Things like I love you and thank you one more time.
When your father dies, you’ll realize you want to know more about who he was other than your father.
When your father dies, you will remember his words of wisdom with a new fondness…advice such as “when all else fails read the directions”, and that “changing a tire and learning to play poker is something every gal needs to know how to do”.
When your father dies, you will see your mother a bit differently. Especially if she is the one who cared for him. You’ll wonder who she will be without him after 62 years of marriage.
When your father dies, you will be thankful for siblings who shared the same childhood and the same memories and stories of your father.
When your father dies, you will be glad that you named one of your children after him, that his grandchildren spent time with him and inherited his intellect, charm, compassion, and determination.
When your father dies, the small particulars of his life grow more significant.
The baseball caps he always wore, the tenderness in his large mitt-like hands, his appreciation for sweets and musicals.
When your father dies, even though at times he was bigger than life, you realize ultimately how frail, and human he really was.
When your father dies, you will become intrigued by the life he built for his children and grandchildren considering the humble childhood he started from.
When your father dies, you adjust your place in the world, in your family. You are now a core family of four, one step closer to your own death and things will never be the same.
When your father dies, you learn how others — friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, patients — saw and experienced him differently. Their memories and stories will fill spaces in your own heart and mind.
When your father dies, you start to notice or maybe just perhaps want to notice how much you’re like him. Your love of people and reading. Your curiosity. Your sense of humor. Your impatience. It’s not all good, but it helps to keep him with you.
When your father dies, you will grieve the man who was once at the center of your universe. And maybe, one day you’ll notice your grief has lessened. Maybe you’ll feel relieved and your relief may leave you feeling guilty.
But every now and then, when you hear a John Phillip Souza marching band song, or you see a man wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, or hear his familiar words “if all else fails read the directions” come from your mouth, you will smile, feel that familiar knot in your chest, and perhaps to no one in particular, you’ll say, “Love you, Dad.”