Is It Really Better When You Have A Chance To Say Goodbye?

I’m taking a break from my usual Friday subject today. This is always a difficult week for me, and since it’s my blog, I’m going to take the opportunity to pay tribute to someone I miss terribly. Yeah, I know, I’ve done it for Father’s Day the past couple of years, too. I don’t care.

I’ve spent the past couple of months doing the same things I’ve doneΒ  in July and August, every single year, for nine years now. Marking the ‘lasts.’ The last visit, the last hug, the last look, the last time I heard his voice across the miles. And those last weeks, feeling sick to my stomach every time the phone would ring, because I was afraid it would be the call…and I didn’t want to hear the words.

But early on August thirty-first, the call came, and the words I never wanted to hear were spoken. My dad had taken his last breath, shortly before midnight. And he’d died the way he wanted, with his kids four-hundred and thirty miles away…because he didn’t want us to see it happen.

People were quick to say that we were lucky. We had time to say goodbye. But you know what? Even though I know their hearts were in the right place…no. We weren’t lucky. In some ways it might have been easier, but in others, it was horrible.

When you know it’s going to happen, you get to see this person you love…with all of your heart…terrified, knowing they don’t want to die, and that there’s nothing you can do or say that will change it, or make it easier.

You get to watch them waste away to nothing before your eyes. And you get to see them try to be strong for you, to pretend that everything is going to be okay, so you have some some good memories to take away from the whole awful, ugly situation.

But the memories are bittersweet. You know that they were faking it…and so were you. Along with everyone else who flocked to see him, trying to cram a lifetime of being with him into such a short period of time. I swear we all deserved Oscars for our acting abilities during that thirteen months…when we all held our breath, hoping some sort of miracle would happen. But it never did.

Yeah, we got to say goodbye…but it sucked.

Would I change what happened so that he died in an accident, like his brother did six weeks after his diagnosis? No, not at all. Because knowing ahead of time did give us all a chance to spend more time together, to get in that last hug.

But in return for that privilege, we got to watch him suffer and live in fear.

We got to hear about his reaction after finding out that he not only had cancer, but brain tumors as well. About how he spent time at a Hallmark store, choosing cards for the four of us…to let us all know how much we meant to him. How he broke down crying in the middle of that store…

How, when he and my step-mother went shopping for the food they would serve my siblings and I on our last trip down there, he was justifying the expense…because he’d never get to eat another meal with his kids again. Not that he had to justify anything, because she would have fed us gold if it would have made him happy.

Finally, there was that moment when we had to leave him to head back home…after one final, far too short weekend together. How do you say goodbye when you know it’s for the last time? When you know that the next time you see him, it’s going to be at his funeral. How do you walk away, get in the car, and pull out of that driveway?

My sister and I were waving out the back window until we couldn’t see him anymore, crying because our hearts had just been broken. I’m sure my brothers were watching in the mirrors, keeping him in their sight for as long as they could. It was one of the toughest things any of us had ever done, and remembering it now still makes me cry.

So if you’re ever tempted to tell someone whose loved one is dying that they’re lucky…just don’t. Please don’t say those words to them. Bite your tongue. Clap your hand over your mouth. Walk away if you have to…just don’t ever say that to anyone.

Yes, knowing does give them a chance to say goodbye…but they also have to deal with a world of ugly that no one should ever have to experience. They don’t feel lucky. They feel helpless, and scared, and like their world has been turned upside down.

It took about two years before life started to feel normal again. And over the next seven, it obviously has gotten easier. But I still miss him…every single day. I miss hearing his voice on the phone. I miss his visits. I miss just knowing he’s there. He’s the one man in my life who made me feel secure, and it’s hard to not have that anymore.

I don’t feel lucky at all…except that I got to have him in my life. Mostly what I feel is ripped off. He died way too young. Of course I’d have thought the same thing if it had happened thirty years from now.

Β This might seem like a strange video choice, but I found out after he died that we shared a love for Elton John music. I guess this was his favorite song. Maybe the fact that I played all of his albums when I was a teen rubbed off on him. Love you, Dad…

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “Is It Really Better When You Have A Chance To Say Goodbye?

  1. asraidevin

    All loss just really hurts. Take care of yourself *hugs* Sorry for your loss.

  2. Beautifully written, Kristy. What you say is exactly right. There is no lucky way or good way to every say goodbye
    .

  3. I would be devastated if one of my parents passed away – it’s something I can’t even think about. Hope you get to spend some time with your family today and over the weekend remembering your Dad.
    Thinking of you.
    Emma.

  4. My heart goes out to you Kristy. It’s been 21 years since my Dad passed in a car accident and I can say to you, that I really get where you are coming from. 9 years is a long time but it’s also a blink of an eye.
    Sometimes it feels like he’s been gone forever and sometimes it feels like he was just here yesterday. Some days it doesn’t hurt as much and I don’t think of him as often or miss him as terribly…and some days, I think my heart is breaking with pain and angst.
    But it does get easier with time. I think we get more accustomed to the ebb and flow of the grief so it becomes easier to manage but it never goes away entirely. Anniversaries, holidays, and birthdays are all difficult. No matter how many years pass. It seems like people move on with their lives and forget that a piece of your heart is broken in a million pieces…they think it’s behind you when it’s always around you. So support can sometimes be hard to find…and that sucks! I think reaching out, like you are now, is the most wonderful thing you can do. It lets people know that you need support and it also helps others, in similar shoes, know they aren’t alone.
    And no you aren’t lucky! The death of a loved one, especially a parent, whether you know it’s coming or it happens in an instant, is horrible. You had the chance to say goodbye and get those last moments in but had to watch him be ravaged by disease. I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye or cherish that last hug or the final “I love you” but I got to remember my Dad vibrant and alive. Like the band-aid ripped off quickly.
    Neither one is better than the other – they are just different. But loss and grief remain the same regardless.
    Know that today…you are my heart…my prayers…my thoughts and I am sending you a huge hug!
    I know…it’s hard! It sucks. It’s not fair.
    Take some time to remember him, his voice, his laughter and talk to him…talk to him like he’s sitting next to you. Tell him about some recent adventure, tell him how much you miss and love him, tell him how much he mattered to you…I bet if you close your eyes and listen to your heart, you’ll feel his spirit and soul wrap you in his arms of love!
    May you always feel his presence…may you always find his comfort…may you always know in your heart and soul that he may be gone, but your relationship with him is not dead – it’s just different.

    • Thanks so much, Natalie. I’m sorry you lost your dad in an accident. As much as I hated what happened to mine, I know it would have been worse without any warning. I think what you try to do…what I usually do…remembering them ‘vibrant and alive’ is the best thing we can do…at least if we don’t want to drive ourselves insane. And I’ve talked to him on occasion…chewed him out for not getting a second opinion. πŸ™‚

  5. I have chills, Kristy. Thank you for opening your heart to usβ€”such a gorgeous tribute to your loving dad. Natalie is right: Your relationship continues. Thanks also for reminding us to savor every day and hold our loved ones close. I’m sending you huge hugs and comforting thoughts today, friend. Treat yourself really well, okay?

  6. Huge hugs to you, Kristy. Death is never ‘lucky’. No matter how much time you have, there is nothing lucky about it. What a beautiful post. Both of my parents are living, but I wonder how much time I have with them and seeing my dad decline a little each year hurts. So I take the time I can now to make sure they know how much I love them, how much they mean to me, so that when the time does come, I won’t have any regrets. Not just them, but everyone in my life that I love. Life is precious and far too fragile to take for granted. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

    • Thanks, Tameri. It is so important to remember how important our family and friends are…always. Because we just never know how long any of us have. I try to never forget that, and to make sure that there are never any hard feelings between me and anyone I care about…because I don’t want to have regrets when it’s too late to do anything about them. πŸ™‚

  7. this hits me really hard right now. On Monday, it will be 6 years since my father-in-law died. We didn’t even know he was sick. Well, he’d been sick, but they thought it was pneumonia. We didn’t know it was cancer. He didn’t let us know(he may not have known either, but we think he knew there was something more serious than he let on). We didn’t know he had lymphoma until September 2. The next morning, we got the call that we needed to get to the hospital. And within the next 2 hours, he was gone. So, we got to say good-bye, but just barely. And no, it doesn’t make it any easier.

    I can still remember the last dinner we had with him. All of his kids and their families were there. What made it really hard was that our wedding was 13 days after he died. And it was exactly 1 year after I had met him. Now, we are going to be celebrating my son’s 2nd birthday on the same day. It’s a bittersweet day.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Hi, Fallon. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you…and I’m sorry that you have a difficult anniversary coming up. It does get easier with time, but they’re never pleasant days to get though. I can’t imagine dealing with everything you did six years ago, but maybe having your son’s birthday on the same day will make things easier. πŸ™‚

  8. Coleen Patrick

    Beautifully said Kristy. There’s nothing easy or lucky about any of it–I’m so sorry. Hugs.

  9. Thanks for sharing your pain and your journey with us Kristy. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to lose him like this. My dad is gone too, but it’s a totally different experience. I rarely think of him and hardly ever miss him. More often i miss what might have been or the illusion I created. take care of yourself. be gentle and know you are loved. Hugs.

  10. Karen McFarland

    Dearest Kristy,

    Can there be anything else more difficult than the loss of a loved one? Whether we know about it ahead of time or not, the fact remains there is a huge hole in our hearts where that special someone used to occupy. As with any wound, it takes time to form a scab and heal. But when picked on by many fond memories, they can fester and the healing process starts all over again. I wondered for years why death was so difficult to accept and assimilate. It didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t make any sense. Why are we forced to suffer through this consequence? It’s sheer torture. Then it dawned on me. Were we really meant to deal with the finality of death? Is it really supposed to be a natural process? If so, then why is it so difficult for us to accept? These questions helped me to come to grips with the death of my father and other friends I’ve lost over the years. But you’re right, it takes time. Yet, do we really ever get over it?
    I sincerely hope that your memories of your father will bring you some comfort knowing how much he loved you and the rest of your family. He sounds like he was a very gentle man. πŸ™‚
    {{Hugs!}}

    • Thanks, Karen. Those are some good questions. I think death is all a natural part of living…but it’s one of the most horrible parts of it. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t love the people we lose. But the alternative…to not love anyone so we don’t feel that pain, would probably be worse. Do we ever get over it? I don’t think so. I think we just have to accept what our new reality is, and deal with it. Our minds (and hearts!) couldn’t take that degree of pain forever).

      Hmm…I’d never really thought of Dad as a gentle man, but I guess that would fit…sometimes. Mostly he was just a good, decent, loving guy. Not the most intelligent on the planet, certainly flawed, but I’d never have wanted a different father. πŸ™‚

  11. Really powerful, moving piece, Kristy. Cancer may take the ones we love, but it can’t touch of memories of them.

    Steve

  12. Can’t ever replace our loved ones, can we? Especially our mothers and fathers, whether biological or not. I feel your pain, my friend, even though both of my parents are still alive. My wife lost both of her parents decades ago.

    I don’t know if you saw the post I did on MLB’s father (whom I never had the privilege of even meeting).
    http://www.mjmonaghan.com/2012/06/15/letter-fathers-day/

    I hope you had a great labor day, Kristy, and warm thoughts of dad.

  13. Pingback: Missed Connections…can you spot the fake? – Natalie Hartford

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