We all have a story….one that is meant to tell. I hope reading my friend Shannon’s story, it will resonate with one person on the feeling of being parentless at a time when most unexpected……
It’s been five years since my life changed from a daughter of two loving parents, to a daughter who felt the emptiness of losing not one, but both my parents. My parents were suppose to grow old together, be grandparents to my children, host the holidays…they were suppose to be there. But now, I am parentless.
I think about them daily and wish I could pick up the phone and talk to them. Hear them laugh. Hear their words of wisdom, encouragement, or get “put in my place.”
For 32 years, I took those conversations somewhat for granted. They came easy. They were plentiful. They were expected. I never thought of the day my parents would no longer be there to answer the phone, door, or text.
My dad passed in June, of brain cancer, and my mom passed in October, of small cell carcinoma. My dad had a long battle with cancer. Three brain surgeries, three clinical trials, chemo, radiation twice, steroids, and the list goes on and on. My mom, however, did not. We were told in mid-April Mom had small cell carcinoma in her lungs, liver, and bones. They gave her 9-12 months to live, and she lived for just over five months.
Those months were beyond tough, emotionally and physically. Being the primary caretaker for both of my parents ended up being bittersweet. I had to do things I never expected to do. I filled roles I never expected to fill for my parents, but the role of caretaker allowed me moments with them I will always cherish.
During the hardest of times, there was joy, laughter, and sometimes tears. Even when my dad was no longer himself, we had moments where “Daddy” shined through. I wanted to be with both of them all the time. Every time I left one, I felt like I was failing them. I will always cherish one of my last conversations with my dad, because he shared life lessons as if everything was normal from a father to a daughter. A moment of normalcy in a time of chaos. When I was expecting my first child, he loved to rub my belly. A week before he passed, he hadn’t talked or woken up much in days, but when I told him I was pregnant, he simply reached over without words or opening his eyes and rubbed my belly – a single action that said so much.
My mom, she was my person. She was my best friend. She was my security. She was my sanity. I always knew if things got too hard, I could go home…and home was always where my parents were. She was the first person I called in the mornings on the way to work and the last person I talked to before I went to bed. We would go in for her scheduled chemo appointments and we would laugh because she was the one getting chemo and I was the one vomiting due to morning sickness.
I have adjusted to life without them, but I do not stop longing for the security, friendship, advice, and traditions they provided. Some say it gets easier, but after five years, I say it doesn’t get easier—you adjust. You learn to live with the loss. You learn to live with the holes in your life. You fulfill some of the needs you have in other ways, without consciously knowing it. You live, because that is what they would have wanted; but you long for them, because that is what you want.
Grief is hard. And you don’t know what to expect until you are there…in it! No two people grieve the same. There is not a starting line or a finish line in the grieving process. It is like climbing a mountain; you zig and zag along and cannot see the other side. You may be making progress and climbing; you may just be moving laterally. At times, you may be headed back down. One thing I’ve learned about grief……it is real. We all will experience some form of it. And we have each other to get us through it. When we are open, real and vulnerable…..we walk the journey together.
I miss them. That will never stop. But, I keep looking forward. I carry my grief with me. It is not something to hide or be ashamed of. It is part of learning to adjust to life without the people I love.
Taking my own personal steps of faith,