To The Grieving - Be and Be Better

When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency,
I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors.
I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else.
I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return.
Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake.
I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is thy sting? ‘ with ‘ it is here in my heart and mind and memories.’
— When I Think of Death - Maya Angelou

My lasting regret is (and forever will be) that I was not there to witness his last breath. I had cause to run an errand and whilst out, I received the fateful call from my mother. Her message caused in me an immediate confusion; so much so, I struggled to navigate my way home from the familiar place where I stood. That was four years ago, 25 Feb 2013 to be exact, and to this day, the confusion, the fog remain. Where I now take some comfort is that they are certainly beginning to clear.

Dad was a quiet man; a man of very few words and at times, even fewer smiles. Dad was also a very kind man, always doing for others, often, much to my chagrin. But more than anything, my father was my rock, my biggest fan and number one cheerleader; this from as young as I can recall. When my mum called to tell me he was gone, I felt my confidence go with him.

Because of the dual loss (father and confidence), I’ve spent most of the intervening years in what has at times felt like a depressive mire. Much time have I spent by myself, avoiding all contact with the outside world. I convinced my myself that I was useless and certainly a big failure. Anything not perfect, any decision or idea that didn’t quite work out was magnified tenfold and became another clear indictment of me and apt example of my poor performance as a man.

This depressive state obviously had an impact on my immediate family of wife and three sons. All had to live through mood swings, long periods of grumpiness and unreasonable crancky reactions to the simplest of requests or comments.  To them, all I can say is a heartfelt I’m sorry.

From 2005 until 2013, my family lived with serious illness in the household, cancer the tenant. My parents suffered with colorectal prostate cancer. Among the huge number of things that I had to cope with, two stand out. Firstly, having to take my mother to hospital for her chemotherapy treatment every week for six months . Sometimes, we’d visit up to three times in a week. I recall this as it was often so painfully dull. Having to withstand the boredom of waiting around for hours was an enormous challenge. Secondly, constantly changing my father, as if he were my baby. He had become bed ridden during his last 4 months of life; he slowly lost the use of his legs, his sight and also control of both his bowel and bladder. Those were very tough times. He hated the experience and would whimper with shame I believe. 

I’ve now come to accept that my issues of low confidence (which at times bordered on and then tipped across to self-loathing) was attributable to the deleterious effect of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion; exhaustion accumulated after years of caring. But, like many I suspect, whilst performing my duty, for that is what it was, I had no clear understanding of the enormity of the task itself, nor its impact on my own health and well-being.

So, thankfully, I’m am assured that not a good for nothing or useless am I. I now reject that I was or have developed into a terrible son, husband or father, thoughts which once haunted and occupied my mind. 

As the fifth anniversary of dad's death approaches, I am returning to meaningful life; the be and be better stage. And, as I emerge, I’m certain of the following; no one will be able to tell you what is right or wrong about your journey through grief. How we traverse the process is as individual as we are. But please, I do ask that you take a moment to read the following; for I acclaim them as both both comforting and true. 

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
— When Great Trees Fall - Maya Angelou