Today was an emotional day, it’s the third birthday since mum succumbed to breast cancer and she has been on my mind a lot. Today I got a card from dad, he wrote in the card
“Happy Birthday. We are very proud to have you as a son”
This has been a rough day, this evening after I opened the card was especially tough.
Most of us don’t get very far in life without experiencing the death of someone we love. Now I’m in my 40’s people seem to be kicking off at an increasing rate. In the last decade friends have passed, lost spouses, been killed in car crashes and died of cancer. It’s quite the toll when I think about it. I’ve gone to more funerals than I wanted to and probably fewer than I should have.
I lost the last of my grandparents 18 months ago. Other than my parents my grandfather was the person I was closest too in my family. He lived a wonderful life, lived it on his terms, showed unconditional love and his house was usually the first place I’d visit when I arrived in England for a visit.
My father, brother and myself are all non-believers (despite the best efforts of a few friends and colleagues) and I do think that perhaps we could have learned something from the life instructions that religion can offer. A good argument could be made that most religion really started out as a way of trying to understand death a little and maybe make sense out of the loss of a beloved.
When Mum passed a couple of years ago after a long illness I was devastated. I had nowhere to put my pain, no place to show it other than maybe in the shower or in the car. People would ask, “How are you doing?” and I would reply that I was fine and not want to make any more of it than that. I learned to welcome small talk so I could skip describing my grief.
The reality is this has been life-altering. We recover, we get over the initial pain but life is not quite the same. Often it’s the little things that bring it back. One of the more constant reminders is when I call my parents house and dad answers the phone. For the last 25 years dad almost never picked up, mum always answered with the cheerful and slightly surprised sounding “Oh hello David” before launching in to what ever family gossip of drama she felt I needed to know. I call dad most days and there is a part of me that still expects mum to be on the other end with her distinctive opening.
After watching mum fight cancer for three years before finally succumbing I discovered we must give grief its time and place, and that period may be so much longer than most of us are comfortable with in a world that moves with the pace of this one today.