I gave myself a headache while trying to figure out what to write after the last week. I guess I should start by saying this isn’t a post about beauty. This is personal. Then I decided to sit down and just write my thoughts out. Something about typing the words is therapeutic-
even if I never publish this.
Last week started with something super incredible, amazing and exciting: I got engaged! I am now officially a bride-to-be and I am so in love with my future husband. For the curious: yes he surprised me, no I did not know it was coming and a picture of the ring can be found on my Instagram. I was on cloud nine! I talked with my parents and of course they already knew because my fiancée had called to ask my dad’s permission…err… Blessing before he asked me. Both of them were thrilled. Further surprised, my fiancée had already made plans and travel arrangements to go back to my home town and spend a weekend with my family and friends to celebrate. That should have occurred this past Friday-Sunday. Unfortunately that’s where this story becomes a sad one.
On Sunday evening (the 15th) I got That phone call… the one that every person dreads. It was my mom. She had tried to get a hold of my dad unsuccessfully all day (he was working several states away). She had a colleague check in on him and they found him deceased.
Nothing in the world could have prepared me for that sinking feeling- that instant wash of hopelessness and despair. I burst into tears. Surely she was mistaken. My dad… My dad couldn’t be gone. I just talked with him the day before. We were so happy. He was heathy and strong and young… only 49 years old. And typing of him in the past tense doesn’t seem real either.
Most of that evening is a blur. I packed my bags in a hurry and made the several hour drive home to catch a plane to go several hours in the opposite direction to see my father and pack his things to bring everything back home. Worse yet: he was going to be autopsied. We still didn’t know how or why he passed away so suddenly when we got there. I have never had a close relative or friend pass away. I did not know how to comprehend or process everything that I was seeing and hearing. Even still, my words don’t come close.
As the plane took off I watched out the window at the beautiful red sunset. I just sat there thinking about the whirlwind of emotion I had felt over the last 48 hours. Extremes of happiness and sadness so closely tied to each other. It did not seem feasible and had I not experienced it I would never have imagined it possible. I went from planning my wedding to planning a funeral. Two things I’ve never done before. Two things my dad should be here for.
My dad and I were close. Growing up he was strong, but gentle. I am his only daughter and because of that I think our relationship was even more cherished. I was always Daddy’s Little Girl. Always will be. The memories, vacations, laughs and inside jokes flowed through my mind, like an endless onslaught of waves crashing on the shores of my mind. Suddenly, everything else seemed so much more trivial. So much less important than it used to.
Denial. That was indeed my first reaction. I didn’t believe it. I asked my mom, “Are you kidding me?” To which she solemnly replied, “No, no sweetie- I’m not kidding.” That phone call echoes through my mind.
Anger. Why? Why my dad? Why right now? We should be celebrating. We should be happy. Didn’t he just go to the doctor? How did this happen? Why did he have to be on the opposite side of the country…why did he have to die alone?
Bargaining. I wish I had spent more time with him. If I could only have him back, I’d see him all the time and travel more to where he was working. If only he had stopped some of the habits my family had harped on him about, if only his career had been less stressful.
Depression. I’m so sad I cannot move or speak. Leaving my hotel room seems impossible, but staying here with my thoughts is worse. How will I survive meeting with the funeral director…and worse…the coroner? Being around my family is hard. Everyone is crying. My grandparents devastated, his siblings in shock. My mom and I are numb in between the crying and sobbing. Listening to a conversation seems difficult and waterproof mascara is all I bother with. I’m going through pictures of his life and choking up. I’m going to cry. At any moment something or someone will trigger a memory and I will lose it. My dad is gone. My dad is gone. He won’t walk me down the aisle. He will never meet my children. My dad is gone. I sob uncontrollably on my hotel floor. No amount of tissue can mop up the river of tears now pooling at my feet.
Acceptance. His funeral is planned, and I survived the wake. The endless wave of family, friends, colleagues and well-wishers. And flowers. The florist brilliantly displayed the essence of my father’s spirit in each design. Each piece is exceptional. Everyone is telling stories. Some are even laughing. He would have loved this. He would be smiling. I love you dad. I know you’re watching.
The story doesn’t end there. It’s really only starting. We did end up hearing from the coroner the day before his wake. He had a heart condition. No one, not even his doctors had detected the disease. Only an MRI would have detected the problem and really, who goes to their doctor and says, “May I have an MRI please?” He died in his sleep. With his arm around his pillow, in peace and no pain. Everyone should be so lucky.
I’m still grieving and I know it’s a process that will take a long time. I’m eternally grateful to the family and friends who have supported me and are helping guide me through. I did not expect to be dealing with this for thirty or forty years. It’s hard to wrap my head around the why.
I write this not as much as an explanation as therapy (though it certainly explains my absence). Thank you for all of the congratulations and condolences. It really is bittersweet, isn’t it? But, my dad died knowing I was happy and taken care of. What more could a dad want for his daughter?