My dad died. Andy Ploegstra was born Groundhogs day 1938. He told that to his oncology nurses each time he came for a chemotherapy treatment. He wanted them to know when Groundhogs day was; know it came on the same day every year. He wanted to add humor, a conversation in the midst of being treated for pancreatic/liver cancer, the kind and the stage that would predictably take his life in a few weeks to months. It didn’t. He had many many months instead. Thank you Chemo – for time, for more conversations, for the final gifts my dad had time to give. He died February 17th, 2016.
Some will understand the arrangements, travel, details, crowds of people who come together for the intense mourning and honoring. If you know are in the know about that, you are also aware of the mass of people who show up to help that all happen. Some of those people you don’t even know. If you are remembering your own recent or not so recent story, I know you are also acquainted with grief.
I am sorry for your loss. Be thankful for your tears, even if they are in your eyes, on your face now because of your dad, your mom, your sweet child, your grandmother, aunt, grandfather, worlds greatest uncle, the friend who blessed your life, the co-worker, neighbor, husband or wife you can’t still hardly breathe without some days.
Right before I left for those necessary days of rituals and closure an elder man shared a sacred story. On the retelling of this story one evening a younger man – my 18-year-old nephew – spoke a sacred statement in response to the story. It’s profoundly true. The two stories were gifts to me so I shared them at my dad’s memorial service. I will share them here for all of you whose somebody has died too.
The elder: “May I have two minutes of your time before you leave?”
Me: “Yes of course.”
The elder with his firm hand on my shoulder: “I am so sorry for the loss of your father. Based on the stories you told, he sounds like a great guy and you two had a special relationship. I really am sorry for you. But…I am jealous of your grief. My dad was a drunk, not a mean or sloppy drunk….but a drunk and for the last ten years of his life he got drunker. When I put him in the grave, there were no tears, there was no grief. So, I am sorry for your loss, but jealous of your tears.”
Days later in the retelling to some family, the response was mostly ‘wow’ or wordless. Until the younger man said this: “Well that only makes sense. Grief is a byproduct of love.”
Dad, thank you, thank you for my tears, for my grief. Its big.