On July 20, 2014, I did one of the hardest things in my life: I fought to enforce the DNR my father had put in place years before.
We live in a fairly litigious society: one little mistake can sometimes lead to a huge law suit. I understand the medical staff at the hospital my father had been taken to after his fall were trying to watch their own asses. But the reality is, had the DNR not been enacted, my father would have had at most a few more weeks of life, which would have been spent in immense pain.
I fought the doctor who argued that my father wasn’t in his right mind. I repeated my father’s final wishes, my back straight, my voice steady, my heart slamming in my chest. I had promised my father years before that if ever the time came, I would make certain he was not being kept alive when there was no chance of recovery. Anyone passing by the doorway of his hospital room would have made the assumption I was cold and hateful. The exact opposite was true: I was the daughter of a man who was ready and at peace with passing on.
The doctor finally agreed with me. My vision hazed over as I began sobbing hysterically, my legs went out, and if there hadn’t been a couch behind me, I would have slammed down to the ground.
My body didn’t slam down to the ground. But my heart slammed shut that day.
The natural order of things are that we bury our parents; the hopefully do not bury us. They care for us as infants and children, and then later (hopefully much later), we care for them.
But my final act of caring for my father, my final act of following his wishes and being strong like he raised me to be? It broke me in a significant way. It shattered my heart to have to fight for him, but to have held on would have been cruel and selfish. Letting him go was the compassionate act.
For the past two years, I’ve been going through the motions of my life. My children have gotten all of me, they’ve had a mother that has been fully present and there for them. But in all other areas of my life, I’ve done just enough to get through each day. I’ve written, but it’s been strictly related to work: ghost writing, lectures, client’s bios and blurbs. For myself? There’s been just enough to make one poetry collection, and a gathering of blog posts for an essay collection. I haven’t had the emotional or creative energy to publish any thing of my own since June of 2014. The first year of my life as a writer, I published eight books; the second I published twelve of my own. That’s a stark contrast, which is just a symptom of a larger problem: I’ve been impotent in my own creative writing because I’ve been closed down and broken for so long.
Over the past two years, I’ve been trying to heal, trying to find my balance. Some experiences I’ve had have done some good, others were just filler and ways to pass the time and attempts to quiet the storm of heartbreak. I’ve been looking for something, anything, to find my center and to relearn living. I’d take a trip, hit a baseball game, have a night of “doesn’t count” drinks and dining, long conversations, tattoos. I’ve invested in companies, found success with my own company, traveled to see friends and celebrate the important moments in their lives.
Grief, like the bastard it is, has no expiration date. There’s no one way to recover. And the reality is, my grief over losing my father will never leave me. But I’ve held onto it too hard. I haven’t accepted it, just wrapped myself in it and been too terrified to let go of it and move on. But in a twist of irony, I’ve been attempting to force myself to move on and let go of the loss.
All that does is make it continue on in ways that are too much to bear.
I recently spent several hours with someone I had just met, and most likely won’t ever see again. The conversation went from everything from music, to our jobs, to our families, to our experiences in our lives. There was a balls to the wall, all cards on the table level of honesty in our conversation, and at one point I was asked, “What is your endgame? What is it that you want for you?” I answered with the usual For my children to be healthy and happy. And this person whom I had only just met looked deep in my eyes and said, “Everyone wants that. What is it you want?”
It’s so rare that I’ve been asked that question and forced to answer with all honesty.
This person completely bitch slapped me and slammed into my life with their questions and honest responses. They shook up those shattered pieces of my heart and miraculously, when those pieces settled again, they settled into place. There was a healing that took place, a shifting of myself that I had been unable to make on my own, that all the experiences in my desperate searching over the last two years had been unable to accomplish.
I woke up the next morning, and for the first time in two years, the first time since I lost my father, I was okay. Not completely healed, but farther down the road of healing than I’ve been able to reach on my own.
It was an awakening, a new look at life. And to this person who more likely than not I’ll not see again: Thank you for the hours of conversation and the learning you brought to my life. You’re an angel among us.
I speak often and glowingly about my OBGYN, a man who busted his ass to care for me, not only during my pregnancies, but during my fertility treatments, my cervical cancer scares, the hell of post partum depression and anxiety. He was able to help me in ways that no one else could. This recent experience I’ve had is the same. That person I spent several hours conversing with helped me in a way no one else was able to. And that is a priceless gift, having a night that changed me significantly, for the better. For the small safe space those hours of conversation afforded me.
There is still more work to do for myself, for healing my soul and moving forward. But I have finally awakened to hope, to finally having faith to move forward and onward into the best version of me I can become.
Amber, I am so glad you had that encounter with that person. Sometimes, it is the times you least suspect that will facilitate healing. It took me twenty years to get over my dad’s death. I know what you are talking about. Keep that conversation fresh in your mind so it will continue the healing process. xoxox