Monday, March 21, 2011

Sometimes it Just Hits You: Loss

Disclaimer: Long - No horses, No dogs, All Therapy... you will cry.

"It" meaning Time, or more accurately "Time" does not heal all wounds.  Sure the raw emotion is scabbed over and most of the time it doesn't hurt so long as enough time has passed that the scabs have hardened.  Until something happens..

That something can be very insignificant like a smell, recognizing features in your children from past generations,  or running into a photo long forgotten.   It's these things that bring tend to pull at the scabs until they bleed.

Then there are days like February 26, and March 21 that rips those scabs off completely exposing that raw emotion of deep loss.

It's amazing that humans never forgot the dates of births of children and deaths of parents (and children).  Everything else are just chapters in books of life.   Sometimes, death makes sense.  My experience with death has not made sense.  I've experienced loosing both parents before I turned 40.  That means my grandmother's have had to loose a child.

At least for me the loss happened in the order it was supposed to, just way too soon.  I can't imagine the depth of loss my grandmothers have had to endure.  A parent is not supposed to outlive their children.

14 years ago today my father died suddenly from his first heart attack.  He was a very young man, just 47.  He was a husband, a father, a grandfather.  He was a man I was just getting to know as an adult, as I did not know him well as a child.  As an adult who has finally grown up, I know now that was not his fault.   You see my parents were divorced.  I don't ever remember them together, all I remember is the fighting.  Often over me in some way.  I still loved him as if he was with me every day of my young life, even though he wasn't.  I see now that he did the best he could, with-in the boundaries others forced upon him.

I envision him and my mom in Heaven, finally getting along.  At least I hope so, because I doubt Heaven is a big enough place for the two of them if she is mad at him still!  Ok so that image made me giggle a bit.  I see God giving mom and dad a time out - "Go to your rooms and when you decide you can play nice you can come out again!"

To this day the mixture of the smell of cigarette smoke, coffee and man remind me of my father when he came home from working 3rd shift in the factory.   I recently discovered a picture of my father in his early 20's.  The resemblance of my 16 year old son to my father is uncanny.  Going through my mom's things when she passed, I found a ring my father gave her before they were married.  I also believe I found my fathers wedding band from their marriage.  Things that remind you of a life lost.

When my father died I was so angry with him.  I had come by a few days before to visit.  He was home, but sleeping (3rd shift again) and I couldn't get him to answer the door.  There were so many things I wanted to say to him.  So many questions I thought I needed answers to.  Death brings out the best or worst in families as they try to deal with sudden loss.  I chose to leave my dad's family.  I felt my only tie to them was gone and it was just too hard.  I was wrong!

When my mom passed away, my grandmother, and my dad's sisters, my aunts, came to the funeral home. Very unexpected.  I know an olive branch when I see it, or it smacks me upside the head.  Of course I grabbed hold of it and haven't let go.  Family is about forgiving, protecting, sharing.  I finally understand that.

14 years... and I still cry like it was this morning.

I remember the phone call early morning, "Jennifer, your father is here at the hospital.  You need to come now.... no we can't give you any details over the phone."  Let me tell you, if a medical facility will not give you details over the phone it's bad, very bad.  14 years later I can still recall the panic I felt at the moment.  I know, somehow my children got to my mom's house.  I know we dropped them off but don't ask me details.  They are gone.

I remember getting to the hospital.  I was the last to get there, I had the farthest to drive.  I remember my family members looking at me with deep sadness and pity.  I remember not understanding why.  My grandfather whispered something in my husband's (at the time) ear.  I remember the look of shock on his face.  I remember walking into one of the ER rooms, seeing my father.  On the table, the vent disconnected, but still in.  The IV needles still in his arms, but not connected to anything.  I remember my knee's buckling under me, someone held me up.  I remember dad's body still warm.. I was minutes too late.

I cry because I remember very clearly my youngest son asking me "Why is the word "Papa" engraved on the back of the headstone?" I explained the meaning of this particular piece to him.  On the front there is a pond scene at sunrise with what appears to be an older Mallard duck and four younger ducks.  The older duck symbolizes my father, the four younger ones are myself and my three step brothers.  My father love to duck hunt.  On the back of the stone is engraved the single word "Papa".  Dad loved being a grandfather.   Only my daughter remembers her Papa.  My middle son was too young at just 2 years old, and my youngest, who has our family name "Clark" as his middle name, wasn't born yet.  

I cry because his absence is still felt at family gatherings.  I cry because he was my Daddy and he missed so much of my life, then and now.

Today, and every day, I remember him.  Dad was just a man.  He was a good man who did the best he could.  He loved me, he loved his family.  He did the very best he could for me, this I know.  Now.  I've forgiven, finally.

Those of us who are left behind, there is a very important lesson to be learned.  To live life fully, do those things that bring you joy, comfort, and contentment.  Take care of ourselves, mentally and physically.  Do not put off that medical treatment, that vacation, or even skip on dessert if you want it.  

Most importantly, make time for family.  Even if it's just 30 un-interrupted minutes a day, just do it.  I need to get better at this.


  1. Sending you a hug Jeni, not much but ,know my heart is with you this sad day

  2. Oh, sweetie. I can your feel your pain and it is still so raw. I don't have any answers. But, I am sure glad you grabbed hold of that olive branch or days like this would be made up of more pure hell than it is for you.
    Get out all the old pics and take a walk down memory lane. And smile a little. Your dad knows how much you love him!
    xo, misha

  3. Jeni, a really good post. Well said and well felt.


  4. Sorry to hear that story...Sounds similar to my own... My Dad was 42 and I was 14 when he died of a heart attack. Not a nice way for things to happen. Funny thing is that being near horses always reminds me of him because he was the biggest supporter of my riding when I was young.

    Good for you for grabbing that olive branch when you had the chance.

  5. It's a huge thing when you can look at a difficult relationship and realize that the person did the best they could. That is the beginning of true healing and spiritual growth.

  6. Jeni, God has enlarged your heart so!
    To forgive is divine.

    You are right, I am crying. For you, for me...and for all those that follow , that won't do the healthy actions you mentioned. I admire you. God loves your sensitive heart!

    I too had to forgive my father for all the atrocities he committed against us. My family has punished me for this...thinking I somehow escaped his wrath, after they left the house 6 years previously. Nope, I just was spared by the Lord, and offered a new way to live.

    I'm glad you remember, only for the sake of what you pass on, not the pain.
    Lovingly hugging You though the internet!

  7. Very touching post -- I can relate on so many levels. I lost both my parents by the time I was 31. My father worked shift work in the steel mills, and smelled of coffee and cigarettes.....much of what you are missing, I am also missing, even after all these years. It is not easy....

  8. A wonderful tribute to your father. Hope you aren't too, too sad and that spring will lift your spirits.

  9. Jeni...What a beautifully written post. Sometimes it takes awhile to figure things sure have! Humility. Caring. What is really important?

  10. Jeni...we got 5 or 6 inches of snow, higher where it drifted. Hope you are doing well today.

  11. I feel for you. You wrote a very heartfelt post that we all will remember. It's hard to be left behind but we do have family to see us through.

  12. Aww...I know I'm late. Been dealing with stuff in my life that's put me in a funk this week. Sorry about that.
    I just want you to know I'm thinking of you.



Happy Trails!