I had a great childhood. We traveled and moved a lot as my dad was in the military. My parents had great senses of humor (which, I think, they gave me) and were young and vibrant. We all laughed all the time and made fun of each others quirks. We had dogs, a goat, and even a pig at one time. My mom rotated three of her signature dishes for dinner every week – chicken and cheese enchiladas, Texas beef skillet, and spaghetti. Sometimes, we got a piece of chicken breast with a couple sprinkles of salt and pepper on it if she was feeling fearless in the kitchen that night! (I know you will get a kick out of that description, Moose. Love ya!)
And then, literally, all of the sudden, out of nowhere, right around the age I am now, my dad got cancer. If memory serves me, diagnosis to his passing was roughly six weeks. I was a teenager, and my youngest sibling was about eleven. It was my first experience with death close to me, and it was absolutely horrible.
I was very close with my dad and just didn’t know how to handle it, I don’t think. So I just didn’t. I didn’t talk about it for years. It was almost too unbelievable to be real. And then I think it manifested itself in a deep fear that I might die young, too. Anytime I would get a cold, I would be on eggshells thinking that that’s what his cancer started out like and how would I know if I would ever get better.
That was a very rough time, for sure.
In my late 20’s, I started to work through my feelings about the whole thing. It was well worth it, and I felt so much better. I think waiting that amount of time, letting myself mature a little, did a lot of good for me as far as processing everything that happened.
As we had moved in with my grandparents just before my dad’s passing, I started to develop a relationship more with Pop, my dad’s dad. Since we were military, I hadn’t grown up with him. It was awesome to have a father-figure type to hang out with. I latched on in 1999, and I still see that crazy old man three times a week!
Pop has given me the craziest, funniest advice on all situations on my life; he has narrated the history of my ancestors as best as he can so that I can tell my kids; he has spilled the beans on one of my pregnancies when I asked him to keep it a secret; and he has come to every function I’ve ever asked him to come to — until Easter dinner this year.
You see, that alone has told me something. He is ready to check out.
I had thought this may be the case a couple weeks ago when he asked me to stop bringing the quilt that I was working on when I went to visit him. He had been so enthusiastic before to be a part of that.
That coupled with the refusal to attend Easter dinner confirmed my first instinct as to what was really going on.
I am numb and sorrowful, but I completely understand.
All things happen for a reason, at their most perfect, predetermined time; and I have been through this before.
I have had all the training I need to deal with what follows, thanks to my past, my open heart, and open mind.
When you give all of yourself to someone, it is always hard to accept that they no longer want to fight to stay here. But just as we all have big moments in our life, like weddings, births, graduations, etc.; death is an essential season that we all must experience. And at a certain age and state of health, it becomes a desire.
The same thing happened with my grandmother and another lovely friend of mine in her mid 80’s. When you are close with someone in this age bracket, you can almost see the switch in real time.
But just as I would support a friend making a touch decision in life, I will support whatever he decides he wants to do. I will still sit and visit and talk about outrageous topics and make him laugh.
The one thing I will not do is fear the season of his death, because doing that would change the way we live today. Him and I are going to have a blast for as long as we can!
Hugs to you if you are going through something like this, too.
2 thoughts on “The Reason I Choose Not to Fear Death”
oh c, I am so so unbelievably sorry. My heart hurts for you and your family. At the same time, I admire your outlook and your honesty. I’ll be keeping you and Pop in my thoughts. Please reach out if there’s anything I could possibly do to help (watch kids so you can get to visit or pick up take out for you for dinner if you’re stuck out late, whatever).
Thank you, Jamie. You are so sweet. This is part of the territory when it comes to “hangin’ with the oldies.” It’s all a journey, as they say, so I’m hanging in there and trying to enjoy whatever time I have left.
It’s funny, today I did not even do my usual comedy show to cheer him up. I came in and just looked at him for a while. And then I just got up and rubbed his back. It seems like something so small, but I think we both understand what’s happening and don’t want to dwell on the sadness.
Call your favorite “oldie, but goodie” and make sure they know how much you love them!