Some Lessons Death Taught Me About Life

My father passed away two weeks ago.  Since then, I feel like I’ve been thrown off my axis – like my world has stopped spinning, but everyone else’s has just kept right on going as if nothing’s happened. It makes me feel slow and lost – like I’m always racing to catch-up to everyone else, but can’t. My brain has totally shut down and can’t seem to process anything concrete – all I can do is grapple with my emotions.

I know exactly how you feel, Kid.

But life is a stubborn bitch, and refuses to be ignored for long.  When you least expect it, life barges in and demands that you pay attention because it has a lesson or two it wants to teach you.  Even though I felt like my brain would explode from the effort, I tried to pay close attention.  I figured that if I looked attentive enough, maybe life would leave me alone long enough to catch an afternoon nap.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far….

Go Acquire Some Funeral AttireI’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, so when it comes to dressy attire, I usually have to scrounge around in the back of my closet to find anything appropriate (and then pray that it still fits).  You can plan a shopping trip for something to wear to a wedding, but it’s difficult to do for a funeral.  You should have at least one black suit or dress on hand at all times.  Otherwise you may find yourself tearfully begging a sales lady for help in finding a piece of black clothing that’s as comfortable as the pajamas you wish you were wearing.

God, please let there be a pair of black pants in here somewhere….

Starve a Cold, Feed a GrieverI’ve sent flowers and fruit baskets to people for all sorts of reasons – birthdays, anniversaries, and various holidays.  But I’ve never sent them to someone who was grieving; I usually pick up the phone instead.  But what I recently learned is that sometimes, the person in mourning doesn’t have the energy or desire to talk to anyone, but they still want to know people are thinking about them – that’s where heart shaped pineapples and chocolate dipped strawberries come in handy!  Although, cookies, muffins, or assorted goodies would work too because they all say the same thing, “This basket of stuff is ridiculously expensive, but I love you and don’t mind having to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of the week in order to pay for it.”

It’s hard to be depressed when you’re stuffing your face with chocolate covered yumminess.

It’s hard to be depressed when you’re stuffing your face with chocolate covered yumminess.

Hugging 101When we are kids, we hug with our whole body, clinging to the target of our affection like little, balding monkeys.  Then as we get older, propriety steps in and our hugs lose a little bit of their fervor, sometimes feeling no warmer than a handshake.  But being wrapped up in a heartfelt hug can be more effective than a handful of Xanax at easing depression – because when you feel like your world is shattering into a million pieces, sometimes all it takes to keep it together is someone else’s arms.

I tried doing this with my cats,but they don't seem to share my appreciation for hugging.

I tried doing this with my cats,
but they don’t seem to share my appreciation for hugging.

United We Stand, Divided We Bawl:  Get yourself an arsenal of good friends because they are like the biological weapons in the war against grief.  I found comfort and support among family because we were all mourning the same loss.  But I turned to my friends for an escape from the insanity.  My friends sympathized with me, but more importantly, they gave me a reason to laugh again.  After crying hard enough to make my eyes burn and my head pound, laughter was the best gift they could’ve given me.  Well, that and the awesome fruit basket.

Our love for each other remains as big as our hair was back in the 90's.

Our love for each other remains as big as our hair was back in the 90’s.

Regret Sucks More Than the First Twilight Movie:  How often do you get the urge to call, text, or visit someone just to say hello or I love you?  Now how often do you ACT on those urges?  Too often we shelve those impulses because we allow other things to get in the way.  Work, kids, food shopping, or cutting our toenails become the priority because we assume we can make that call or visit tomorrow.  It isn’t until tomorrow is abruptly taken away that we begin to mentally tally up all those missed opportunities, and then the crappy feeling of regret sets in.  We can’t do much about the regrets of the past – whether you blew off calling Mom, or made the mistake of sitting through another one of Kristen Stewart’s movies, try to learn from those regrets and work towards avoiding them in the future.

twilight-meme-twlight-interesting-man

Eat Your Goddamn Vegetables:  I’ll admit that if all the vegetables on Earth were destroyed in some sort of veggie apocalypse, it would probably take me a year to notice.  And don’t even get me started on exercising or my loathe/hate relationship with my treadmill.  Clearly, I wasn’t born with whatever healthy-living-genes Jillian Michaels seems to have in abundance (don’t get me started on her either).

But when I hit my thirties I got a serious wake-up call that implored me to take better care of myself – a front row seat to my father’s triple bypass surgery, and my best friend’s battle with lung disease.  When you see a prolonged illness suck the will to live right out of someone you love, you find out that there is a lot of truth behind the phrase, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”  If you’re like me, you hate to hear preachy clichés like that– especially when you’ve got a donut in your hand.  But I’m saying it anyway.  So do yourself a favor and eat a freakin’ string bean once in a while.  Okay?

Except during girl's night out.

Except during girl’s night out.

Don’t Sweat the Small StuffGood grief Linda, how many clichés are you going to throw at us in one blog entry?!  Sorry, I know this slogan has been stamped on a million different coffee mugs, t-shirts and bumper stickers – but again, it’s true.  Let your grudges and petty annoyances go – the guy who cut you off in traffic or the co-worker who drank the last of the coffee isn’t going to spend a single second thinking about you.  So, why should you waste hours of precious time imagining all the different ways you could kill them and avoid trace evidence?  Especially when Google can do it for you in seconds….

dont-sweat-the-small-stuff


I Double Dog Dare You:  Accomplishing something we didn’t think we were capable of is exhilarating.  Which is why I’m urging you to push aside all the imaginary roadblocks you’ve created for yourself (lack of time, money, ability, etc.), and take on a task that you find challenging.

I will be facing two challenges this summer.  Initially, both of them scared the crap out of me because there’s movement involved – a lot of movement; and I’m pretty sure I can’t bring my couch and TV remote along with me.  But after a little bit of thought (and a lot of alcohol), I decided to push past my fears and see if I’m still capable of surprising myself.

Here are the two upcoming events:

The 5K Foam Fest – I’m going to need a chiropractor and a few drinks when this race is over.  And I’m sure I’ll be spending the better part of a week cleaning mud out of places that should NEVER get muddy. But it looks like a hell of a lot of fun…..

The Long Island walk to help fight breast cancer – 2 days, 35 miles, and probably a boatload of blisters.  If you would like to help me raise money for this great cause (without the nasty blisters), all you have to do is click the link below and pull out your credit card. Personally, I think you’ve got the better end of this deal…..

https://www.li2daywalk.org/donor_info.asp?MEMBERID=13166

If everyone who reads this donates just FIVE dollars, I can reach my fund raising goal of $1,000!!

BRING.  IT.  ON!!!!

BRING. IT. ON!!!!

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19 thoughts on “Some Lessons Death Taught Me About Life

  1. That was great Linda. Keep on bloging! We have to go an see Robert Hansen again! Actually, if you can get a private session, you will be much more at peace knowing that your dad is right here with you!! Love, EIleen

    • Thanks, Eileen. I’m trying very hard to hold onto the belief that my Dad is still with me – it’s the only way this grief becomes bearable. But I think a Robert Hansen type experience would be too difficult to handle right now. Maybe in time….

  2. Thanks for sharing your recent loss. I went through similar situations when my Mom passed away in January 2003. Some days it seems like yesterday. The year of “firsts” was tough…. some days and events were tougher than others, some were not all that bad…. still I think the worst are the times, even now, when the pain of that loss comes out of nowhere and hits me right upside my head.

    I remember the time just before and after Mom passed as time in a deep fog…. I did not even know what year it was. The DR gave me a sleep aid to help me sleep, yet when I did take one I felt like I was under a heavy, wet blanket and just could not function properly. So I stopped that and tried to sleep the best I could. Luckily I have great friends, who supported me and most of my colleagues at work were accommodating and helpful.

    Whenever your grief overwhelms you, be sure to acknowledge it and let the tears come. Move through it and get on with healing. “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.”

    I wish you peace, comfort and healing. Take Care.

    • I am SO sorry to hear about the passing of your mother – even though it happened 11 years ago, I’m sure there are days when the pain is still fresh. I know EXACTLY what you mean when you wrote, “….still I think the worst are the times, even now, when the pain of that loss comes out of nowhere and hits me right upside my head.” That’s the worst part for me too – the unpredictability of it. I could be totally fine one minute and then break down into hysterical sobs the next. Makes going out in public a real crap shoot! I’ve learned to take a pocketful of tissues where ever I go 🙂

      But like you, I made the decision to just let the floodgates open when they want to (even if I find myself crying over a frozen bag of peas in the grocery store), and allow myself the ability to grieve without trying to censor anything. I think no matter how painful it is, it’s worse to try and keep everything all bottled up. My writing has helped me tremendously during this process.

      I’m still in the stage where everything is a fog and my memory is suddenly that of a woman who is deep into her senility years. But I’m sure my brain will come around eventually…. or at least I HOPE it will. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before I leave the house and forget to put on my pants. Try explaining THAT one to the cops 🙂

      • The fog will pass…. but in the meantime you may want to put a post-it note on whichever door you exit your home most often…. “got PANTS????”

        I will always be dealing with this loss… yet, I do think that she’s helping me get through it. I even find myself doing some things as she would or attempting things that I never had before that she had always done well…. hence my blog, “Channeling Mom” … it helps me deal with the loss and share with how proud I am to be her daughter. I started my blog in 2012, on the anniversary of my Mom’s passing, talk about a tough day, yet with a silver lining. Writing a great portion of the blog was tough that day, but cathartic and oh-so helpful.

        You’ll be going through a whole year of “firsts” …. Keep your head up and keep moving forward. You will be fine. You can do this. Remember your pants… and the rest of your clothes… or you’ll have one of those embarrassing dreams come true. 🙂

        Take Extra Good Care of You.

        • “….but in the meantime you may want to put a post-it note on whichever door you exit your home most often…. “got PANTS????” – LOL, that was hysterical… and also a really good idea 🙂

          As for the year of “firsts”, sadly, I have some experience with it. I lost my best friend (oddly enough, her name was Helen too!), 3 1/2 years ago and the year that followed her death was the hardest of my life. But I’m sure this one will have it beat, hands down. I’ll keep writing to help fight the fog – you do the same. It’s a comfort to know that there are others who know exactly what I’m going through right now. So, thanks for that.

          • Hello….
            I have not written in my blog since sometime in March. Problem is I got busy with things, family issues and life in general. And I did not seem to have enough time to devote to composing some good posts.

            Now, my ‘kid-brother’ is battling Stage 4C Papillary Thyroid Cancer. He had his thyroid removed last October and has been monitored and examined several times since. His endocrinologist sent him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN this week. He and his wife were the only members of our family to make the trip. I have been feeling so frustrated about not being able to do much about this, with exception of support any and all members of my family. So… after their first day in Rochester, I felt compelled and needed to write. I had remembered how cathartic it can be to blog about the tough times in life, so I did. It did help.

            Then, I remembered you and your journey with loss and wanted to check on you. I hope you’re doing well and your rough days have become less frequent or at least easier.

            Take Care,
            Teri

            • Teri –

              I’m so, so sorry to hear about your little brother. I don’t know what’s worse – going through an illness ourselves or watching our loved ones battle for their lives…. I think it might be the latter. Rest easy knowing that you’re doing all you can to help support him and his wife.

              Sometimes, it’s the little things we do during tough times that are remembered the most. Here’s an example – about four years ago, my friend’s father passed away. I didn’t know anyone in her family, so when I went to the post-funeral gathering back at her Mom’s house, I busied myself emptying the garbages and cleaning up after the guests. My friend vividly remembers me doing that and she still comments about it FOUR years later! So just keep doing what you’re doing – it’s making a difference.

              As for me, my rough days have definitely become fewer and further between. We held a memorial for my dad in June, and then in July I went to Florida (I live in NY) to visit my stepmom and go through some of his belongings – both of those events made me feel like his death just happened. But other than that, it’s gotten easier to deal with my grief. Songs on the radio that remind me of him, or sappy father/daughter moments in movies still have the power to make me cry – and when those feelings of sadness and loss resurface, I just let them come.

              Please take care of yourself. Thank you so much for checking in on me. I find it remarkable that in all the craziness you’re dealing with right now, you stopped to think of me. I really appreciate that. Keep me posted about how your brother is doing. I wish you and him all the best.

              Linda

  3. I’m sorry about the loss of your dad. I lost my dad five years ago, so I understand some of the emotions that you’re feeling. We weren’t on the best terms, so I can completely relate to your words on regret. I love your double dog dare challenge, and the goals that you’ve set for yourself. The 5k Foam Fest looks like so much fun! I ran my first 5k last year, and finishing felt amazing! Good luck with achieving your goals and thanks for sharing such a raw and honest post.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I think there is a whole extra layer of hurt when regrets are added to the grieving process. I think the best we can do is try not to make those same mistakes with the loved ones we still have left in our lives.

      Congrats on finishing your first 5K! It does feel really good to cross that finish line. I’m by NO means a real runner, but I try to take on a 5K every now and then just to give myself something to strive for. I actually hate running…. well hate is too strong a word, I guess. It’s more of a quiet loathing. But it’s a great way to keep the pesky pounds off that seem determined to stick to my ass whenever I stay still for too long 🙂

    • Carol, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your Dad. When the memories or reminders of him surface now, is it a happy experience? I’m hoping that ten years down the road, those same memories and reminders that are making me cry now, will make me smile years from now. So, even if they don’t do that for you, could you lie to me and say they do? 😉

      • My family and I laugh a lot and you probably don’t want to know, but we have his ashes and my sister covers his container up at Christmas with wrapping paper, and I even suggested we bring him to her second wedding. She wrapped him and I brought a bow tie and we put him in the front row next to the chair my mom was to sit in. We had her crying – had to video it – but she liked it. I also can cry on a dime thinking that he is no longer around. Sorry – couldn’t lie 🙂

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