What I know about love, loss and living

Here is the first guest post for our new blog.  It is from Ellen Fussell.  Ellen is a writer both gifted and practical.  You might want to check out her own blog called Miserly Menus.  Thanks Ellen for kicking this off with such a moving piece of writing.

I really wish people knew that sometimes it is much easier to see someone die than to watch them trying to live.  I know this sounds incredibly harsh, and it’s not something most people want to talk about.  But I also think so many people forget that death really is the harsh reality of life.

I lost my Dad a couple of years ago after a twelve month battle with cancer.  So many people you meet and talk to have either known someone close to them battling cancer or some other terminal disease. Unfortunately so often you only hear of the people who have lost their fight.

There truly is very little that is helpful to say to someone who is dealing with the death, or imminent death, of a loved one.  But so often death is seen as the pinnacle of the traumatic experience.

For me, this was not the case. I had 12 months to grieve the loss of my father before it happened.  And as the time wore on, the person who occupied his failing body no longer resembled my Dad.  Where there was once an intelligent, eloquent, wise and caring man, there just was a tired and jumbled person.  He was left with little energy to care about the things that usually mattered so much to him.

Weeks turned into months, and you could visibly see him tire of the explanations relating to his treatment and health.  I tired of the well-meaning friends and family who opened every conversation with “How is your Dad?”.  I can only imagine what the same did to him.  The endless visiting trips exhausted me and turned our family lives upside down.

Then one day I visited, and slowly but determinedly he said: “Hello Blos”, using the name that he had called me for as long as I could remember (I’m not sure I ever heard him say my name, always Blos or Blossom).  For a moment, I saw my Dad, he really was inside there, and I smiled.

Within minutes the moment passed, and I walked out of the hospital room and cried, on the shoulder of a hospital volunteer, until I couldn’t cry any more.  Within three days, he had died. I was so relieved it was unbelievable.  I no longer had to visit the stranger, the body that had stolen my cherished Dad.  I didn’t even cry at his funeral, I really was so relieved.

Now I am free to remember my Dad; as he was, not as that man in the hospital bed.  I remember him as the man who held my hand as a newborn, held it as a chatty toddler, held it again when I broke up from my first “serious” relationship, held it when I walked down the aisle at my wedding, and held the tiny hands of my newborn sons.

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