No Time for Better Words

June 26.

I keep hoping that something wonderful will happen that might change the way I look at this day.

I buy scratch offs; not a regular thing for me, but there is a chance that this could become the day I win a bunch of money. I hope someone close to me will choose it as their wedding date, so I can remember today as their anniversary. If I get pregnant again, maybe we’ll try to conceive in September and aim for a June baby–maybe the timing will work out just right.

But, until something joyful happens to offset it, I will always remember today as the day that my Dad died.

It’s been three years, and it still hurts.

It’s a different kind of pain now. The edges have started to wear smooth as time washes over them. I’ve tried to recast a net of good memories over the sad ones.

My faith gets me through most of it; I believe he is in heaven (whatever that really means) with all his questions answered, and the pain of his cancer and this life erased. I picture him at peace with God’s love for him. Finally and irrevocably reconciled. I picture him walking hand in hand with the son he lost and never stopped grieving. I picture him surrounded by the others who went before him. I picture him–happy.

The week before he died, we got into a pretty big argument about demon slut (the step-mother). I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive her, because in my mind, she stole his last good days from me. It was a couple of days before Father’s Day, and our disagreement escalated to the point where he suggested, gently, that I go home for the weekend and regroup. There were too many guns around, and I needed to let my rage toward this woman dissipate.

The last conversation we had, he reminded me that I needed to keep my cool in these situations, and not let my emotions get the best of me. I apologized, and told him how much I loved him, hugged him tight, and left to spend the weekend at home.

He took a bad turn while I was away, and by the time I got back, he could no longer speak. I showed up with a card for him, and the DVD set of Lonesome Dove. He loved that movie–he used to make us watch it every time it came on. I would have gladly traded 384 minutes of this western for the live stream of Fox News blaring at full volume–the usual soundtrack in his home. He never opened the gifts, and I can never get that last Father’s Day with him back.

Even though he could no longer speak, he was still there, but he could only respond with facial expressions and by raising his eyebrows. I think that was the first time he really allowed it to enter his mind that he was dying. He would not allow us to speak of the possibility that he might not survive the cancer.

There was so much left unsaid, and I could see it all in his face. Maybe I was imagining it, but I don’t think so.

There are signs that death is coming. Anyone who has ever watched someone decline in hospice care is probably familiar with them. The feet and ankles swell, and their extremities go cold. The skin on the hands and feet will show signs of mottling–blue spots appear that look like bruises. They show signs of restlessness and agitation. My Dad picked at his sheets like there were ants crawling on him. They hallucinate–he was smiling and waving off into the distance. That was comforting to me. You can say it was the morphine, but I believe our loved ones are there to help us cross over and welcome us home. I’ll always wonder who he saw in those moments–I’d never seen that kind of joy and peace on his face before. Their breathing slows, and the jaw will go slack.

That is the strongest memory I have of how he looked after his death. His mouth was wide open and gaping like he was still gasping for air; I tried to close it after, but his jaw would not stay shut. I kissed his forehead as I said goodbye for the last time and my tears fell on him. He was so gaunt that the chemo port stood prominently on his chest–it looked painful and foreign, and it had become a marker of his weight loss to me. I remember when they placed it after his diagnosis. They asked him if he was right-handed or left-handed so that they could place the port opposite of his gun shooting shoulder. No joke. That’s how deep in the heart of Texas we were.

I was not in the room when he died. I’ve watched it before, and I just couldn’t face it again. He was surrounded by his loved ones. My brother played his favorite hymns on the keyboard, and the family sang to him. His cousin held his hand. She’s the one who noticed that he had slipped away. It felt morbid to me to stand there in a circle staring at him, just waiting for death. I’d seen almost every moment of his decline; he wasted away for nine months from the strong man I always knew into the skeleton that lay in the bed at the end.

Demon slut was outside too along with a few other family members. When they came out to tell us, she ran off into the woods. I briefly wished that she would step on a rattlesnake.

I did not go after her, but someone did eventually.

I didn’t have the patience for her drama or her grief. It was fake and used to manipulate others. I know this because of her behavior in the year after his death. She also waited until she had a sympathetic audience, went inside, and threw herself on his body, beating on his chest and screaming, “Why did you leave me?”

I stood watching her in shock and disgust.

The hospice nurse had mentioned that people from her culture grieved differently than we do here in the United States, but I still couldn’t stand by and watch her punch my Dad. I’ve never felt rage like that; I’ve never really wanted to physically hurt someone before, but I wanted to hurt her in that moment. I wanted to break her nose and watch her bleed.

But, I remembered my Dad’s words about keeping my emotions in check. I walked over to her calmly. I pulled her off of him, into a hug that was anything but comforting. I concentrated all my anger into this hug, and quietly told her, “Please respect the type of man he was, and stop doing what you are doing right now. I know you are hurting, but he would not have wanted this kind of display. You know that.” She got the message.

And by some miracle, she stopped.

It took about three hours for them to get out to the ranch to collect his body. I dealt with it the way I used to deal with all of my pain–by getting very, very drunk.

I remember standing in the front yard as they wheeled him away. I was standing in a pile of fire ants. They were pissed, and left angry red welts between my toes and on the top of my feet, but I didn’t feel the bites until the next morning.

If I could have stayed suspended in that moment when you first wake up, and have forgotten, I would have. But the memory always invades and steals away those brief moments of peace. The blisters on my feet pulsed with the reminder, “He’s gone. It’s over. Time to eat bad casserole, hug lots of people you don’t remember, and make funeral arrangements.”

It’s always the same.

My husband held me that night, and he says I was talking in my sleep. I remember the dream I had, or maybe it wasn’t a dream. Dad was standing in front of me saying goodbye. I told him I was sorry, and that I loved him. We laughed about something–I imagine that I asked him if I stayed calm enough while she was punching him. I told him we would sure miss him. And then he was gone.

I wanted to make this post a tribute of good memories, but this pain is still so raw. I wish I could do it over again. I wish I didn’t have so many regrets surrounding his final days.

I selfishly wish he was still here so I could be a better daughter to him.

I still wish I could break demon slut’s nose, but it is enough that I will probably never see her again. She’s off ruining someone else’s family now.

Bitterness toward her won’t bring him back, and I hope some day I can truly forgive her.

I haven’t yet, but I suppose it could still happen.

“No time for better words, no time to unsay anything…So, the last, spoiled embrace. Those are happy who have no such in their memory. For those who have–would they endure that I should write of it? C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces.

My apologies for the grief post. I’ve never written about this before, and I may take it down later.

For anyone who has ever lost someone close to them, know that you are not alone.

It does get easier, but the pain never really goes away.

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37 thoughts on “No Time for Better Words

  1. Wow, this is moving and was very difficult to read as I lost my boyfriend a couple months ago. I’m sobbing…this must have been very hard to write and I truly respect that you were able to do so. ♥

    I hope you can forgive her, too, and it can still happen! I had some forgiving to do and once I did…wow, what a freeing feeling.

    • I remember you saying that and feeling your pain then. It is so hard to lose someone you love, and I’m sorry I made you sob, but thank you for your kind words. I think I’ll get there eventually. Old grudges die hard though :) I would love to be free from this, and even though it was kind of a therapy post today, I hope I’m that much closer to it. Hugs to ya over the internet.

    • I’m sorry for everyone who can relate to it. I guess in a way her prescense was a blessing. It gave us something to laugh about and a different focus for our anger.

  2. Sorry for the loss of your father. This couldn’t have been easy to write. Hopefully with time the painful memories will lessen and the good ones take precedence.

    • Thanks Carrie. It wasn’t very easy to write; maybe someday I will be able to able write it better. Baby steps I guess. Thanks for commenting! As always, you reading and commenting is immensely comforting when I put the pain out there (and every other day!)

  3. Grieving and forgiving both take time. But getting your feelings out like this may help ease some of the pain. My father-in-law suffered from cancer, and he also saw people near the end. He would laugh and say things like, “You can’t see her, but she’s there at the foot of the bed.” Could it be the morphine? Possibly. But like you, I think old friends and family might come by to help with the transition. I just wish we could see them, too.

    • I wish we could see them too, and I’m sorry about your father-in-law. Cancer sucks. Thank you for reading my therapy session, commenting again today, and sharing your story.

  4. Oh, please don’t take this down. It is so beautiful and sad and REAL. I had tears in my eyes. My dad wasn’t around, so I can’t imagine the enormous sense of loss you feel, but my heart goes out to you, and I know how much you loved him and will always love him just through your words.

    • Thanks, Ashley! I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to grow up without him around, so my heart goes out to you too, and I rejoice in the fact that your daughter won’t have to grow up missing her Dad. Maybe I’ll just revise it so that it’s more story and less tears on the screen :) I can probably take the edge off of it, and add some humor to it, but sometimes you just have to write where you are at, and yesterday I was just sad.

  5. This is pretty much the exact same thing that happened to my Dad. Except we only had about five weeks from the time we learned he had cancer, to the day he died. Everything you described is exactly right. Except I was in the room. I had never seen anyone die before, and can’t say I ever want to again. My Dad died a little over a year ago, and I’m looking forward to being able to write about the experience. Not yet, but some day…

    • I’m sorry about your Dad, and that the cancer took him so quickly. It is really hard to stand in the room when it is someone that close to you, and I always felt bad about avoiding it, but I guess I can’t take it back now. Good luck writing about it–it’s kind of like ripping a scab off and bleeding all over the page, but there is also something comforting about telling the story, and I will keep trying to refine this first attempt. Thank you for taking the time to comment here, and for sharing your own experience.

      • You shouldn’t feel bad. At all. People always say crap like this to try and make you feel better, but I mean it sincerely–he probably wouldn’t have wanted to you see it, anyway. Thank YOU for writing about it, and inspiring me to do the same…some day. :)

      • You are probably right. I appreciate that, and I’m glad it inspired you to share your own experience. When you’re ready.

  6. On Easter of 1989, my wife’s mother passed away at home from lung cancer, and I will not profane what is sacred by saying that I know what you went through with your dad, because I know that I absolutely don’t know, and I don’t even come close to knowing, because Jean’s mother died that day, not my mother. So I would never try to claim that I know what the tragic and heart wrenching loss of your dad on the day was like for you.

    I was there all day long that day and I spent many hours at her bedside, frequently alone with her, when my wife and other family members were too exhausted and heartbroken, and they needed a break. I witnessed so much that is so vividly similar to what you have written here, but I was only an empathic witness to the tragedy of that day.

    My heart broke for my wife, but there is no comparison to the agony that she and her family went through as their mother was torn away and taken from them forever.

    Your writing here is a heartrendingly brilliant masterpiece of self expression, and vividly effective in describing all that you went through on that day three years ago, and what you are still going through now. I think that in spite of your agony, you still demonstrated strength, courage and a powerful measure of restraint and self control. The only thing I have to add is this:

    {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Rachelle}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

    • I think anyone who has witnessed the death of a loved one has a pretty good understanding of it. It is almost as painful to watch someone you love go through it as it is to experience it because all you want to do is help take their pain away. I think this experience was almost harder on my husband than it was on us, but he stood there through it all. I think my dad’s was one of the first funerals he had ever attended.
      I appreciate your comment, and that you shared your experience, and my heart goes out to you guys as well. Sometimes the only thing you can do is be there and help shoulder some of the grief, and it takes a strong person to do that as well.

      • True. After witnessing the deterioration and death of my father, I decided to go to mortuary school. I was so blown away by the concept of death. You go through your whole life knowing it’s coming for people, but not really believing it. And then it happens in your life. I remember thinking, “Oh my God, THIS is what it feels like? THIS is what people have been dealing with for millions of years?” I couldn’t believe it. You never understand until you see it happen in your life. Helping others cope and deal with their grief has been a very powerful tool to me. I feel like my my Dad dying, I found a calling I would have never found otherwise.

  7. Great read…thanks for sharing. Your father was a good man to me over the years. Spent many an hour fishing, hunting, or just visiting with him. Or trying to make sure he didn’t set himself ablaze…he had a tendency to stand really close to an open flame pit or fireplace. Lost my father to lung cancer in December 2008, and had the privilege of feeding him his last meal over Thanksgiving, just a few days before his passing. He displayed all of the signs you described, and we knew the end was coming on pretty quick. He knew it as well, I’m pretty sure of that, yet he still talked of getting his strength back and when he’d be back on his feet again.

    Nice reflections on the step-mother, although I think you’re much too kind in using that phrase at all where she’s concerned.

    Always know that YOU are not alone in missing your dad, that others miss him too…just as they also miss their own.

    • He did like to stand a little too close to those fires didn’t he? I’m really glad that you got the chance to know him. He was a good man (with interesting taste in women) and we all miss him.
      I appreciate you taking the time to comment today–I didn’t think many of you knew about this little online journal. :)
      I’m sorry about your Dad, and all the others we have lost to cancer. It is hard to find anyone whose life has not been affected in some way by it.
      Thanks again for reading today. If you click around on anything else, forgive me! My subject matter and sense of humor are not exactly COC approved (and Dad would probably be horrified by most of it).

  8. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. And I know this is stereotypical thing to say, but I wish the best for you and your family. Don’t take this post down, I think a lot of people can take something for this. Keep trucking, and if it makes you feel better, nothing ever ends well for demon sluts. Mainly because they’re slutty demons.

  9. Lost my Dad when he was 74 from bladder cancer…so difficult to watch his last year…and to take care of my Mom…

    Then, lost my Mom last year at 90 years old…she was well, & then after eight days in the hospital…she was gone…

    I had some of the same thoughts in my head that you have…it’s so FINAL!

    Only God brought peace…it took time…and I’m finally laughing again!

    I’m praying for you and me both!!

  10. Your writing makes for easy reading – this is your second post I’ve read this morning. Anyway, it struck me that you wrote this post about your father on June 26 because it is also the death anniversary of a father to me and to many others (a spiritual father, you can say). And in a similar way that you love your dad so much and still miss him, one of this holy man’s “children” would say, let the longing for him always stay fresh as an open wound – not so for us to sulk in misery, but to keep present in our life his goodness and love and joy and words of gold. Your dad must have been a very special man.

    • I’m sorry for the loss of your spiritual father. Those are beautiful words and a wonderful way to think about grief and missing those that have gone before us. My dad was very special to me and I miss him terribly every day, but comments like this help. Thank you again for reading.

  11. Well I just spent an hour figuring out where I last left off and now I recall… on this very sad post. Made even sadder ( and slightly ironic) for me as March marks the 2 year anniversary on my own dad’s death. He died at home with my mom there (me and hubby racing up the highway to get there) after a valiant struggle with cancer – but no regrets as he had a long and amazing life. My mom handled it badly and was in denial until the minute it happened. (not having even had made the arrangements in advance)
    I don’t bother keeping track of the actual day in march because I don’t want to dwell on it – is that weird?
    In my dwindling family where we all act like practically nothing went down, thanks to my mom’s excellent training, I thank god for my normal, grieving husband who can offer me the support, shoulder and advice that my own family can not. When she is gone – I shall walk away from all guilt, regrets and responsibilities as a child. I will have done my part and feel free. And only cherish the good times that I allow myself to indulge in.

    • I’m sorry about your dad too. I don’t think it’s weird not to keep track. I wish I could forget the date sometimes myself. Happy to see you in the comments section and I hope everything is going well for you. Give your husband a high five and hug for giving you the support that you need. It’s so important to have someone you can share it with.

  12. I am new to the blogging community and have just discovered your blog; I love it. This particular post caught my eye because of the date. Every time I see the date June 26, I stop to see what’s up. My daughter, Jessica, passed away on June 26, 1987. Twenty-six years later I have finally accepted this and I am at peace. I pray that you are able to come to terms with your father’s passing a lot sooner.
    I am a high school English teacher and have spent the last 13 years writing about Jessica’s passing through assignments I have given to my students. However, it wasn’t until I joined the blogging community and really put myself out there that I have been able to reconcile myself with her death. I am grateful that there are others who know my pain and are willing to write about it; thank you for that.
    Although it seems like shameless self-promotion, I have included a link to the post I wrote just a few days ago. June 26th, 2013 marked the 26th anniversary of Jessica’s passing. I hope your acceptance comes much quicker. Peace, ~Victoria
    http://vakunzmann.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/peaceful-acceptance/

    • I’m happy to have you here on my blog, Victoria, and I welcome you to this community.
      I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter, Jessica. I read your post, and it was a beautiful one. Thank you for sharing it with me. I don’t look at sharing grief as self-promotion, rather an attempt to connect and feel less alone when we try to process it. And it is a difficult journey for everyone who has ever experienced it.
      I can sense your peace through your words, and I’m happy you have found it.
      The anniversary of my dad’s death came and went this year, and I tried not to wallow in it again.
      Easier said than done, because I’m not sure I’ll ever stop missing him.
      I don’t think we’re supposed to stop missing them.
      Hugs and continued peace to you and I look forward to reading more from you.

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