Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Dead Dads Club Redux

My Dad once said that he thought February was the most miserable month ever and I'm inclined to agree - especially living in New England and just wanting winter to go away while it tenaciously hangs on with one bout of lousy weather after another. By this time of the year I'm ready to scream from the cold, the dark, the hope of spring just around the corner but still out of reach, and the memories that February inevitably brings.

Five years ago was one of the coldest and most miserable Februarys ever and went beyond miserable when my Dad died that month. I guess that considering how he felt about February it was quite fitting that he chose that month to start his "big dirt nap" as he used to call it.

Maybe people think that you can't just choose when you're going to die outside of suicide but I tend to disagree. I know that in speaking to Dr. Slater, Dad's oncologist, he said that a person can't just decide they don't want to live anymore but I think he might be wrong on that one. My Dad was tired and worn out from battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and as much as he hated leaving my mother, he was tired of fighting and just wanted to rest. I guess in the end I can't blame him for wanting that but it doesn't mean I still don't miss him and think that it was horribly unfair that he left when I was finally beginning to appreciate who he was as a man and a father.

Last year I wrote a post about The Dead Dads Club so I thought I would repost an excerpt from that post for those who might have missed it and also because I can't really put the feeling of having lost my father into words any better this year than I did last year ...

The Dead Dads Club - originally posted February 22, 2007

CRISTINA: "There's a club. The Dead Dads Club. And you can't be in it until you're in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize. But until you feel that loss ... My dad died when I was nine. George, I'm really sorry you had to join the club."
GEORGE: "I ... I don't know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn't."
CRISTINA: "Yeah, that never really changes."

Cristina is right, that never really changes. Four years ago I became a member of The Dead Dads Club when my father passed away unexpectedly in the middle of a CAT scan procedure. Four years later I still have trouble believing it because it still seems so surreal. If you have never lost a parent or a close loved one, you can't grasp the enormous sense of impossibility that never seems to go away. You learn to exist without that person, you have to, but you will still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and it will take you awhile to remember that person is gone because it will just never feel right or real. It isn't just at night either, it can be anytime of the day or night when the overwhelming sense of loss overtakes you from out of the blue. I will never get used to it.

But as much as the loss of my father has affected me, I know that the loss to my mother was immeasurable. My parents were just a little over two years short of their 50th wedding anniversary when Dad passed away and I have no doubt that losing someone after that amount of time has got to be just like losing a part of yourself. How my Mom has survived the ensuing years without him is amazing to me, especially considering that she always thought that she would never have to face that possibility; that with her family's health record she would go before him. Even when my Dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma my Mom still thought she would die first but I think that was more of a desire of wanting to go first because she couldn't imagine an existence without him. I admire her strength in being able to go on and I thank her for sticking around when I'm sure she really wanted to just lie down beside my Dad and join him on the other side.


Death is obviously an inevitable part of life - we're born and we die - it's the whole Circle of Life thing but that doesn't mean that it's easy to understand or even accept sometimes. I deal with death a lot in my job - not on a personal level but on a level where I have to come to know a lot of our patients by their names in the computer or on the spreadsheet. I talk to people on 911 whose family members are dead or dying; I've heard their anguished cries and the disbelief in their voices on the other end of the phone; and I have sympathized with them over their loss. Thankfully I deal with death from behind a computer, a telephone, and a radio microphone. How the guys and gals that are in the field deal with death face-to-face is beyond me. I could never do it, I know my limitations, but I admire those that can and do.

For anyone else out there who is part of The Dead Dads Club, there is a website where you can memorialize your father and post a tribute to him next to those of others who have lost their fathers. Just click here. And if you aren't a member yet, go tell your father how much he means to you while you still can. Along with your mothers, your grandparents, and anyone else you may have forgotten to tell that to lately.

17 comments:

  1. wow, what a powerful post. I truly was touched by this post, Linda. My father is still alive and I really can't today imagine my life without him. Life is so fragile and fleeting. Thanks for sharing this today.

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  2. wonderful! well said!

    my Subvet often says that boys don't become men till their dads die. strange but true.

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  3. I cried so much reading this Linda. Not because I am member of the Dead Dads Club but because I know someday (probably sooner rather than later) I will be.

    My Mum died 20 years ago and I was heartbroken but I was so afraid for my Dad trying to go on without her. 20 years on he still misses her terribly.

    As for deciding to die - my Dad decided last year that if he didn't get his hip operation within a couple of weeks, he was going to die. He really meant it. He decided he couldn't go on with the pain and the restrictions the illness imposed on him. I begged him to keep fighting but he said "I have to die sometime and I've had enough now!" Thankfully Dad got his operation and now has a new lease of life which he is grabbing with both hands and strangling the life out of!

    Sorry to go on but you touched a nerve there honey. I so feel for you, someday I will know the pain you're going through but not yet, not yet, please. xx

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  4. Linda, you said it, Just yesterday Mr BC and I were talking about our dads, both gone. Actually my mom and dad are gone. Mr BC said it was as if they left the dance floor and now we are dancing alone.

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  5. I can see why a lot welcome spring.

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  6. This is in line with a quote I once heard, "It doesn't matter how old your parents are when they die; you will still feel like an orphan."

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  7. Very poignant post, Linda. My Mom died 28 years ago this past October and even though our relationship was often very rocky, I still miss her very much. (Yes, I even miss the daily fights we always had!) But my Dad -I never knew him as he died when I was 17 days old and it took me many years of my life to realize how much I missed him. How can you miss someone you never knew? Simply because you never had the opportunity to KNOW that person, it leaves a gap within yourself that there is so much you don't know or understand about yourself that having known that person could have resolved those issues. Over the past 10-15 years, I have been on a mission, of sorts, in trying to learn more about my dad - who he was, what he was like that has shown me, in the process much more about myself, who I am, inside and out.

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  8. Excellent post Linda. I'm a member too. It will be 11 years pretty soon. Thanks for the tears and the smiles. Big hug. :)

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  9. It's a great post, Linda. My dad is one of my best friends. At 82 he hits the clubs more than I do. He was honored recently by UConn where he had been captain of the basketball team. He was asked to go to the practice by current hall of fame coach Jim Calhoun. He wanted me there, but I had a work thing. He called me the night before to say he wanted to change the date so I could be there. My work event had got cancelled minutes before. I'll be writing a post soon about it, but I know when he goes a hole will exist that will never be filled. God bess...

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  10. Linda,

    This is an amazing post. Yes, I am a member of the Dead Dad's Club. My father died in 1981 and there are still times when that overwhelming sense of loss strikes, though not as often as it used to.

    I enjoyed my visit and have memorialized my Dad on a website some years ago, but am going to visit the one you've linked to.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    My prayers are with you in your present circumstances.

    Blessings,
    Mary

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  11. I'm fortunate to have my mom and my stepdad, not only nearby but in robust health. And I'm kind of selfish too, because I want it to be that way for a long time to come.

    The loss will come eventually, and I'm sure I won't be ready.

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  12. I too am a member of the Dead Dads Club and your post truly brought me to tears. My dad died 7 years ago next month and I still hear his voice encouraging me and soothing me every day of my life.

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  13. I cried so much reading this Linda

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  14. Thanks for sharing this, Linda. I know what you mean about finding it hard to live without the person you love so much. You have to find a new sense of normal. It takes a while.

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  15. Linda this post really touched me as well. My father died in March, 1976 and things still come up that I would love to be able to ask him.
    I know that he would know the answer.

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  16. I also wanted to tell you that I can see the resemblance in the photo on the upper left.

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  17. I ♥ your blog, you know this. You also know I'm a card carrying member of the Dead Dads Club, the club no one really wants to belong to but the one we all end up in at some point or another. Memorializing your dad is a wonderful way to honor him, talking about him here and with your children is also another beautiful way to honor him as well. Painful as it is, I find it helps to talk about the good times and the bad and just get it out. It is inevitable, I know, but your dad wouldn't want you to be so sad. He would want you to live and enjoy every moment you have here with your kids.

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