“Everything Must Go”

How do you put a price on a life? How do you advertise a loved one’s hobbies, passions, and joys? How do you say goodbye to all the possessions that made a loved one happy?

This week, we hold the Estate Sale: the dreaded days-long purge of the “things” my Dad loved. We have taken what we want to keep, given away what we know means most to family and friends, but everything else goes to the highest bidder. 

It puts life in perspective. In the end, the things we work our whole lives to purchase and pay for and keep end up in a yard sale, sold to strangers for pennies on the dollar.

Thankfully, my parents always valued experiences more than “stuff.” I have memories with my Dad: vacations, experiences, camping trips, and photographs to cherish: that means more to me than any physical item ever could.

In the end, everything must go. All our possessions stay here on Earth when we die, so focus instead on building things that last: relationships, memories, experiences. Those are what truly matter in the end.

How do you put a price on a life? Measure it by the amount of experiences had and memories made. Those are priceless. Those are what I treasure from my Dad’s life.

Everything else is just “stuff.” 

“I’m Fine”

Over the past two months, I’ve had lots of people ask me how they can help. Do you need anything? they ask. How are you doing? Or worse, some say nothing at all.

Our culture conditions us to reply with the obligatory “I’m okay” or “I’m fine” or “we don’t need anything, but thank you.” Our culture conditions us to lie when we are hurting.

Honesty is truly the best policy, but it is not always comfortable. Perhaps that’s why our natural tendency is to shy away from those in pain: we don’t want to subject our “I’m fine” lives to the “I’m not fine” lives of others. I know because I have been there. I’ve been the one who didn’t know what to say or what to do. I’ve been the one who didn’t understand, so I was the one who didn’t say anything at all.

During our time overseas, one of the things I came to appreciate about Germans is their blunt honesty. They do not understand the American greeting of “how are you?” and our mandatory conditioned response of “I’m fine.” If you ask a German how he or she is doing, you will get an honest answer: “Agh, this weather is sheisse, my dog ran away and got hit by a car, and I have a very bad toothache.” It might be uncomfortable at first, but the Germans will tell you exactly what is on their mind. If they aren’t fine, you will know it.

American culture is vastly different. We plaster on a smile, we stuff the pain down inside, we tell everyone we are fine. In order to help the hurting, we need to be able to peel away that mask and see the pain underneath.

What exactly can you do for those who are hurting? Don’t ask. Just do. Bring over a meal without asking. Send flowers or a card—even a brief email with a note of encouragement. Have a cup of coffee with them, ask them “no really, how are you?” and listen to the response. Allow them to cry on your shoulder. Don’t try to fix the problem because, honestly, it isn’t something that can be fixed.

You don’t have to know what to say. Honestly, those who are grieving don’t need you to say anything at all other than “I’m here for you, and it’s okay to not be okay.”

It’s been interesting to see how my friendships have shifted during this time of mourning in my life. Friends who I thought were my closest confidants have faded into the background, not sure of what to say or what to do. People I thought would call or email have remained silent.

Then there are those who have been through heartache and loss have come to the rescue, offering me support and invaluable advice, encouraging me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There are family members who have held me close as I cried. There are friends who stocked our fridge with food without even being asked, invited us over for a meal, sent cards and messages letting me know they are thinking of me. Those messages and acts of kindness have kept me going.

If you have someone who is hurting in your life, reach out. You don’t need to have the right words. The only words you need are I’m here. Sometimes that’s enough.

The Darkness

It’s been almost two months since I lost my Dad.

I thought things would start to get easier. I thought I would get back to my normal life, my normal routine, and the pain would ease.

But the pain is still there, sneaking up on me throughout the day, scraping its claws against my heart, knocking the wind out of my lungs, threatening to unhinge my emotions and bring me to tears.

The grief hangs on, refusing to let go, refusing to let me move on. I hide away in my closet and let the tears flow, gasping for breath as the raw emotions take hold, I curl into a ball, and accept the brutal reality: He’s gone. He’s never coming back. I will never see him again. I won’t ever get to say the things left unsaid, I won’t ever be able to hug him again, to tell him I love him, or hear his laugh. There is nothing left now but an emptiness where he once lived.

The pain is so great and so real, there are many days when I want to climb into bed, curl up under the covers, and sleep for a month. Maybe then I would wake up and realize it’s all been a nightmare, that my Dad is still alive.

Even as I type this, the weight of the grief is heavy on my shoulders. I hear his voice in my head, and it stops me in my tracks. My heart beats fast, my eyes begin to cloud with tears, and the darkness threatens to swallow me whole.

One day at a time, one hour at a time, I travel through this valley. Everyone keeps telling me there is light at the other side, so I continue to put one foot in front of the other until I see the sun shining once again.

But oh, it is lonely and hard here in the dark.

 

Only In My Dreams

I dreamt of you last night.

In my dreams, you and I laughed like old times. I told you it was almost your time to go, and you said you knew, but you wanted to spend one day with me first.

How I wish that dream hadn’t ended. How I wish I didn’t have to wake up to the reality of a world without you.

Funny how things have changed in my world; a world where my dreams are blissful, but being awake is the real nightmare.

I would give anything to have one more day with you. To hear you laugh one more time. To share an inside joke, to give you a hug, to breathe in your scent.

To have you back.

All I have now are my dreams. I hope you will visit me in them again soon.