Earlier tonight I found out that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; He’s 26 years old. Over the phone he laughed and told me “turning 30 isn’t so scary anymore. Now I just hope I make it there.” I suppose I have no business in being so upset by this news. He told me that he’s known for a while and he is slowly coming to terms with his inevitable death. He laughed and joked, even consoled me over the phone when I broke down and cried.
After I hung up, I seemed to just move on with my life. I mean, I said a prayer for him and made a mental note to continue to pray for him, but otherwise I just went on with my evening. While doing homework, I noticed that this movie called “Everybody’s Fine” came on. The first time I saw this movie, I was unaffected, in fact it annoyed me, however, tonight it hit me hard. So many things in the movie reminded me of my dad, my mom, my family and the destruction that only a tornado of grief can leave behind. I cried throughout the rest of the movie.
Sometimes I think the hardest part of grief is knowing that you will be fine; that life moves on; that you will move on; that you can move on. For the most part, there are things that need to be done, the dog still needs to be fed, the dishes need to be cleaned, and you have to take a shower. When you’re first smacked across the face with the loss of someone, you seem immobile. Then all of a sudden, your to-do list seems to be the only thing you think of; then, out of no where, a smell, a photo, a sound, anything brings back the memory of that lost one and you become aware of that pain that you’ve been trying to bury at the bottom of your heart or in the back of your mind.
Talking to my friend and watching that movie provoked two thoughts.
I miss my daddy. I just miss him. I would give anything just to hug him again, to hear his voice, to hold his hand, to hear him laugh. Everyday that I wake up, I wake up knowing that all of these things are gone, that he is gone. It’s the worst feeling in the world. I go about my day until a memory comes crashing through my tough heart and I break down. I miss him so much, I miss his hugs and his voice, I miss his smile and his laugh, I miss everything about him. I hate that I know that I will be okay, I hate that I know that I will survive and there is nothing I can do about it. I hate that I can’t put my foot down and scream at God that if He doesn’t give my daddy back to me that I will no longer be His friend. I know that none of this matters. After I found out that my dad died, I remember sitting in an airport (I have no idea which one) and I saw a woman praying the rosary. The thought crossed my mind that I should pray for my dad, I tried to say a rosary, but I could think of the words. I tried to say the Act of Contrition, but I couldn’t remember the words. For the first time in my life I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t eat, I didn’t want to live, I didn’t want to go home, I didn’t want any of this to be real. I remember staring at her rosary and I just hoped that she was saying it for me. The existence of God has become more real to me then ever. I never really thought I had a weak faith, but I think I do, because all I could think of was that I’ve never wanted to believe in God more than I do now.
Losing my dad has changed my life and my reactions to life. When I heard the words that he would be lucky to live a year, I broke. I realize now how precious life is and how so many of us take it for granted. Even I was complaining about turning 25 and how old I’m getting. Sometimes we take life for granted and we lose sight of the precious gift of life. It is a miracle that a child makes it through the gestation period, let alone the labor and delivery. “What a gift life is”, that’s what my Godfather used to say. He told me “people are so full of themselves, they actually think that the birth of a healthy child is somehow a work of their creation. Only God can create such perfection, such beauty. Only God, can create life and only God can take life.” So now I sit here and I rethink things a little bit, I think of my 26-year-old friend who is facing death. I think about all the noise I’ve made about getting older, the jokes about being that much closer to 30 and here is my friend who might not make it there. Life is a journey, a gift, a miracle and it only gets better with age. My friend told me that he wasn’t afraid of dieing, but that he was worried about those he’d leave behind. I’m sure my dad felt the same way, but I can’t allow my mind to wander to what my dad’s last thoughts might have been, it breaks my heart.
In the end, we all will grieve, its inevitable. Now that I am on this side of death, I understand that like many things, grief is a solitary thing. Grief cannot be compared or dismissed. It is an ugly feeling but if you allow yourself to slowly work through it, you come out alive and a better person for it.
I have a great love of poetry and when I heard my this news, this poem came to my mind. I hope that when you read it, that it touches your heart in some way. I hope that we can all learn to live our lives to the fullest and appreciate life altogether. And if you think about it, please keep my friend, his family, my family and myself in your prayers.