Grief is one of the most complex emotions I have ever experienced.
I thought I experienced it before– I lost both of my grandmothers during my lifetime, and two dogs. The pain and sorrow I felt was intense.
But when I found out that my father had died, I experienced pain like I have never felt before in my life.
When I arrived in Michigan for my camping trip, I told myself I needed to call my parents to let them know I arrived safely. I went right to setting up my tent and supplies, and got immediately wrapped up in the adventures of the day.
And I forgot to call my parents.
The next day was a bit rainy, but we still were able to enjoy ourselves.
And I still didn’t call my parents.
Monday arrived, with still more rain. We decided to catch a movie, and drove to a nearby town. On the way over, I finally decided to call my parents.
The answering machine picked up. The answering machine never picked up, because my dad was always there with the phone nearby. I tried calling again, and got the machine again. Something was wrong. I left a message saying to please call me as soon as possible.
We arrived at the cinema, bought our tickets, and saw the movie. The Devil Wears Prada. Loved it. Laughed, cried, enjoyed every minute.
Every minute, at least, up until the last 20 minutes or so… when I realized that my phone had still not vibrated with a call from my parents.
As soon as we left the movie, I called again, and got a busy signal. Now I KNEW something was wrong.
I called my sister at all her numbers and left messages to please call me as soon as possible. I got to my friend Jeremy’s car and called my parents one more time.
My mom picked up.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her. “I’ve been trying to call all day long.”
“Ricky,” my mom said. “Your dad is gone.”
“What!?” I cried.
“He’s gone, Rick.”
In an instant, I wished I was there with her. I wanted to blink my eyes, clap my hands or do something– ANYTHING– to be there and NOT where I was.
I could hear paramedic radios in the background. My mom had come home from work and found him. He had an apparent heart attack. The medical examiner said from the look on his face and the way he fell, it was quick. He was never in pain.
The realization that my feelings were correct, and knowing how badly I wanted to be home with my mom immediately made me absolutely hysterical. I sobbed so deeply, so painfully, like I have never sobbed before. Why didn’t I call them earlier? Why didn’t I tell him I loved him just one more time?
My wonderful, incredible friends comforted me, drove me back to camp, packed up all of my things, pulled my car around, loaded my car, and got me on the road as soon as possible. My friend Rafael drove my car so I didn’t have to be alone. I barely remember half of the trip. I was completely numb.
Grief plays with your emotions. You feel fine one moment, and the next you are absolutely sobbing. Your mind races with thoughts and pictures of things you did with the person you loved, and the things you wish you had done. You regret not saying things you wanted to say. You are thankful that you said the things you did.
And yet… you realize that although the person you loved is no longer present on this earth, he or she is with you.
I write this from my parent’s house… the house I grew up in, the house that has always been home to me. It doesn’t feel like home anymore. It’s empty. It’s quiet. It’s lonely.
I am sitting in the room my sister once occupied. Adjacent to this room is my old bedroom. For years after I moved out of this house, I still used my bedroom whenever I would stay overnight. But a few years ago, my dad decided to use my bedroom as his room, where he could sit in his chair and watch his movies all day long. The bed was moved into my sister’s room.
Now my bedroom is empty once again. The chair still sits against the wall, facing the TV. My dad’s gray hairs are still on the pillow on the back of the chair, and his movies are still behind the door.
But he’s not here.
I don’t like this feeling. It hurts.
You may wonder why I’m writing this at all. I guess I just need to put these words… these feelings… emotions… all on paper. I need to remember the pain I felt at those moments, and the instant sense of loss I experienced. It may be depressing, and it may never win any awards or even admiration, but once I am done writing this, I will know that what I felt was in every word and every punctuation mark.
Finally, I want to thank Scott for writing yesterday’s post, and all of the people who commented or sent messages or other well-wishes. Your thoughts are most greatly appreciated.