Sunday, November 8, 2015

The death of a parent...

The death of a parent is a blow to the heart. An arrow, that even though perhaps you saw coming, aiming straight for your heart, unapologetically slices into your soul, breaking open every memory, smell, touch and moment in time from as far back as when you first remembered feeling happy and safe and loved. It leaves you feeling raw, without breath, without the ability to hold a thought or form a sentence. Because you can't begin to make sense of it all; even though you knew it was inevitable, it leaves you feeling as though someone has reached into your body and ripped out a piece of you.
They say it's hard to watch those you love suffer. It's hard in that way you can't describe - it's that place you go to when you can't bear to witness what's right in front of you. You can't bear it because you watch as your own heart smashes on the floor as you lean over to rub their feet, watching as they try not to wince in pain because they don't want you to know they're hurting, trying to smile through your feelings of helplessness and veil of uninvited tears because there's not one goddamn thing you can do to make it all better. Instead of turning your head skyward and opening your mouth to scream and curse God, you bow your head and hold their hand. Your anger at the unfairness of it all turns to sorrow, then shame. Because you know his faith in God is what has got him through life. And you know it's one of the greatest gifts he's given you. So you turn your attention to other things, and rub his legs in an attempt to momentarily dull the pain. He never complains, so why should you? You tell him stories because he can no longer see, and read him his favourite books. And there's that moment that arrives, unannounced, when you realize his body has failed him in every respect. That moment when you realize you're holding someone's dignity in your hands? You hold on to that for all you're fucking worth. Because when you're holding it for someone you'd lay your life down for, you know in that very moment that it's a privilege to be allowed that honour, to get to do that for someone who gave you their everything. You do this all the while knowing that he knows you know. He knows that you know he's slowly letting go...and he knows that you know he has to. He simply must. He knows that you know his silence doesn't mean he has nothing to say to you. Rather, that silence is overflowing with intense love, joy in his remembering, peace in knowing that he's lived a great life, and grief in knowing that there's a season for everything, and that the time has come for him to let go. I'd like to think that the piece of me that's now missing, is the piece he took with him in his final breath; I pray that he felt enough love from our collective hearts that it eclipsed any feelings of loneliness and fear.

He knew he was going home. He was ready. I'm just not sure we were ready to let him. How do you say goodbye to the person who held it all together, the one who saw the good in everything and everyone? The one who loved us for who we were, not who we thought we should be. Unconditional love - how rare, and what a gift. I think that's why people would bloom in his presence.

Jules Jack Van de Velde was the greatest person I've ever known. And it just so happens that I was blessed to call him Dad. Maybe that's why I've never been big on buying lottery tickets - I've known for some time that I already won.

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