novelist Madeleine L’Engle, thanked C.S. Lewis for writing A Grief Observed. “I am grateful for his honesty, because it makes quite clear that the human being is allowed to grieve, that it is normal, that it is right to grieve, and the Christian is not denied this natural response to loss.”
In his book, Lewis argues that we should talk about death and tough subjects like cancer, which felled several of Lewis’s loved ones. Talking about these things helps to disarm paralyzing fears and frees us to appreciate “how much happiness, even how much gaiety” we experience with our loved ones even in the midst of life’s most painful times.
Since launching We Are Caregivers in October, we have not written much about grief, but it is a natural part of life. After 9/11, Queen Elizabeth put it so simply: “Grief is the price we pay for love.” One of our authors is the Rev. Dr. Rodger Murchison, author of Guide for Grief.
Today, though, my column is personal. I’m sharing my story.
My father passed away this week. We knew it was coming. It has been years since we learned that he had corticobasal degeneration. However, that did nothing to lesson the pain and shock. I got the call on Friday the 18th that we should get there if we wanted to say good-bye. My husband and I were actually on a much-anticipated night away. It took most of the night but by late Friday my two brothers, Mom and I were at his side.
The disease had mostly taken Dad’s ability to talk, but on Saturday morning he mumbled his last words. “I love you,” he told Troy, his firstborn. I find it particularly fitting since they sparred more than the rest of us. I didn’t need to hear that again, but maybe Troy did. On Saturday we brought all of Dad’s grandkids in to say goodbye. There were heartfelt tears as they told Pops that they loved him. Our children are young, ranging from 15 years to only 2. It was an amazing thing to watch them comfort each other and grieve together.
We thought that he wouldn’t make it through the night. We decided to take shifts in order to have someone by his side. However, he pulled through. We spent the next four days and nights by his side. At times we watched TV or read, but on two occasions we broke out the Monopoly game and the beer. Dad would have loved that, his kids, his favorite game, and a beverage. One evening when Mom had gone home for a little bit, Dad’s breathing grew more labored. We stopped our game and prayed to God to take Dad home. When we said, “Amen,” Dad sighed—a big, comfortable sigh. It was amazing.
My father passed on Thursday morning. I like to think that he wanted to eat breakfast in heaven that morning. He loved breakfast at the family table at any local restaurant. I can imagine him walking in dressed in his suit and tie and introducing himself to all his new friends with a handshake.
I am going to miss him so much. Yet, I am glad he isn’t suffering anymore. I will never forget the time spent with Mom and my brothers over the past week—literally more time than we have spent together in years. That is what he would have wanted, for us to be together. Our families have been extremely supportive, keeping things rolling while some of us pressed, “Pause,” on our lives to be with him.
We are in the process of putting together a celebration for his life, and it was an unbelievable life. The stories of the lives that he touched are already pouring in. I think Troy said it best, though. He loved God. He loved people.
You can see his obituary at the Life Story website.