Dad went in for the umpteenth time for dialysis. At three times a week, four hours a day, six years – he had dialysis for 730 days of his life, 2,920 hours. And now he was being told they had run out of veins for his dialysis. It was Friday, December 10, 1993. It was my son’s 21st birthday; my Army child, stationed in South Korea. Dad decided not to go back to the center where he spent all those long grueling hours. He chose to die now rather than months from now, under all the same four hours a day, three days a week routine. He died on December 19.
I came home after spending the last week of his life with him and did mundane things, like shop at Albertson’s for milk and bread. All the while thinking that surely the clerks, the other shoppers, the children in the child seats, the baker, the butcher, the florist – would all see the pain in my eyes, the ache of my heart, the hole in my soul. Surely they noticed. I wanted to go up to each one and say “Did you know my Dad?” “Did you know he died?”
I went to his friends and would touch their hands, knowing that their hands had shaken my Dad’s hand. I knew that their hands had affectionately clapped my Dad’s shoulder or embraced him. And I would eagerly and breathlessly wait for anything they would say about my Dad. I wanted to confirm all the good things I knew about my Dad. I would stand there, soaking up his friends’ words like water on a parched throat.
“Your Dad was very kind.”All these words would bathe over me and sooth me.
“He was so important to me.”
“Your Dad loved you kids so much.”
Recently I have watched various news blogs about local people who have met untimely ends in freak accidents and what struck me were how many relatives who had never commented on these blogs, now were writing. They were writing in response to remarks made by various bloggers who didn’t know their lost loved one, and the remarks were sometimes hurtful, tacky, or erroneous. These loved ones have written from Ohio, California, Seattle – outside the scope of Spokane, Washington. And these loved ones have expressed the pain of reading these remarks when all they were doing was what I had done – they searched for anything about their child, their mother, my Dad. They googled their loved one’s name. They wanted anything about their loved one. Just like I did with my Dad. Any positive word to say he was loved by someone else. That someone else misses him as much as I.
Four months ago a good friend’s 24-year-old daughter passed away due to cystic fibrosis. I wrote about it on this blog – in a good way, in a positive way, highlighting what I knew about his daughter from my own experiences with her. I have a comment tracker and I have been amazed that every day, every single day, I have received hits to that particular post, from all over the world. Her friends started commenting to me – that it helped them so much to handle their grief over the loss of their friend. Her mother contacted me. She too wanted to hear that people loved her daughter as much as she did. The loss of her daughter took her breath away with its nearly unbearable anguish. She wanted comfort, she wanted to see her daughter through others' eyes. It confirmed for her that her daughter was vital to many, many people. That particular site gets two dozen hits a day. All because I said kind things about a person that was loved by so many people.
I wrote that story because I desperately wanted someone to write about my Dad in the same way. I wanted someone to say they loved him too. They missed him. They were sorry for my loss.
The empathy I get from others has healed the gaping hole I had felt for months after my Dad died.
Hopefully my treating others as I wish they would treat me makes a difference.