This post is a deviation from my usual travel or hiking article, and with a much more somber tone. Today is my dad’s birthday. Usually I’d be leaving him snarky messages about how old he’s getting, then take him out to lunch or dinner to really celebrate his ancientness. With his fun sense of humor and love of good food, he used to appreciate this tradition. But not so now. Since October 24, 2018, he’s been hospitalized following a sudden cardiac arrest. He hasn’t regained consciousness. So this is the second birthday where he likely doesn’t know what it is we’re celebrating. Over the course of the last 16 months, I’ve learned a few things.
1. Anticipatory grief is very real and difficult. In a way, it’s like I’ve lost my father. Barring a miracle, I’ll not be able to have a conversation with him, hear his laugh, hear the pride in his voice when he talks about his kids or grandkids. At the same time, he’s still alive, and I haven’t really lost him yet. But it’s hard to feel like he’s here.
2. It is possible to feel joy while feeling grief. The two emotions are not mutually exclusive. There have been days when life feels like it did before all this happened. Then there are times when sadness hits like a tsunami, powerful and at times overwhelming.
3. The journey doesn’t get any easier. There are days when it’s incredibly difficult and decisions are tough. But it does become routine.
4. Time is something to not be taken for granted. There’s one small, almost silly regret I have about not sending a text message the Monday before he went into the hospital. It was a photo of my daughter I thought he’d get a kick out of. I didn’t send it. I shrugged it off, thinking I’d show him at church the following Sunday. He was hospitalized on that Wednesday and hasn’t regained consciousness since. So I’ve learned to send the text, say the ‘I love you’s,’ because you just don’t know when it’ll be too late to have the opportunity.
For my family, the road to loss is long. And it is hard. There are so many things that Dad had been looking forward to and will now miss in the lives of his kids and grandkids- Jacob’s Eagle Court of Honor, high school graduations, the birth of his granddaughter, and the many school recitals, Scout outings, speech competitions, and all that he would have celebrated and been a part of. But I am thankful. Because though there is much that he’ll miss, there was so much he was a part of. I am thankful that it is so difficult because the love was so great.