I’ve learned to be okay with not always being okay or feeling okay or expecting everything to fit my definition of okay. I’ve learned to welcome grief. I’m continuing to learn to grieve well.
You’ve noticed the stories of death in this book. Narratives in the past tense surface in the present tense. Finding equilibrium in the storms of grief isn’t a simple process. I can’t offer a few steps to take which remove the hurt. Ideas and suggestions, yes. But no magic formula. No quick fix. Just stories of my own life when taking jagged steps through this twisted life.
To me, those stories resemble photo albums. They’re doing that for me now as I read journal entrees from my past and rewrite them for this chapter. Let them do that for you as you read my stories and think about your own.
I am remembering the day when DaddyO—my father-in-law, Stan Oliver, Sr.—was in the hospital. After a surprising stroke, he spent five days there before he died. In my original journal I wrote, “when he entered his new home.” For now and for this, I wanted to write differently. Yes, he entered a new home. For this, I want to say he died. He did. Though we believe in eternal life, we also know death is real.
We spent those five days there with him—watching and praying and talking and waiting.
We aren’t spending any days with him now—just remembering, while thankfulness and sadness merge together like notes in the same key.
My mind’s movie clips dash from hearing DaddyO struggle to communicate in his final days to hearing the way his voice would previously sing, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” When he drove his vehicle very fast to when he drove very slowly. When he firmly disagreed with umpires’ strike zones to hearing his voice answer the phone with his unique, “Hello.” Listening to his laugh that made everyone else laugh. My brain turns pages rapidly, revealing a variety of moods—family together for Christmas, gatherings when our sons were so young, a swimming pool keeping us cool in the Florida heat, more meals, more ball games, more songs.
Death doesn’t give an advance warning. The final five days with DaddyO weren’t originally on our calendars. Hearing his voice struggle to state his desire for onion rings when we told our plans to pick up food at the Varsity. Seeing, and feeling, his battle to breathe. Remembering a funeral, revisiting a life, reflecting on a deluge of memories shifting suddenly in my mind as I originally wrote these thoughts for a blog, and now rewriting them for a book.
This day? I miss DaddyO. Occasionally I listen to his messages and read his texts still on my phone. They aren’t deleted. I saved them, just as I am saving the mental scenes I’m seeing in today’s cinema in my mind.
The Bible tells us Jesus wept. His closing confession or prayer or reflection on the cross was from our Psalm 22—did He learn that poetic prayer as a child? Do not deny your sadness or avoid conversations about who or what you have lost. Welcome the time when everything seems out of balance. Because, in many ways, it is.