Saturday, June 2, 2012
I knew he was sick. At spring break, I'd learned he had AIDS. But I thought he had years to live. My family didn't want to burden me with his rapid decline in the midst of my high-pressure final exams at prep school, so they didn't tell me how bad things had gotten.
At the time, I resented not having been kept abreast of all the details. Later I realized it was the best way they knew how to love me and protect me. There's no right way to die, and there's no right way to grieve, and there's no right way to deal with the whole process. It's going to hurt, and even the best intentions can't prevent that pain.
Papa's death was the slap in my face that showed me once and for all that we each walk our own path in life. My sister Hannah, two years younger than I, was still living at home when all this happened. Her experience of it was totally different, much more immediate. I, on the other hand, didn't even tell my schoolmates what happened until the end of the following year when we were assigned a personal essay to be read aloud to the whole school.
Sometimes we're so angry at life, but since that's so abstract, we resent those who seem to be taking things away from us. I've heard it so many times from people in grief situations - "I just wish they had told me", "If only things had been different", etc. These are all part of the grief process, but when you boil it down, you've got a loss. And that loss has to be integrated into the rest of life. There's no changing it, no going back in time. That's probably the most tragic part of life - that it only goes forward. And yet that forward-moving is the one constant of life, the one thing we can always count on to heal us, surprise us, delight us.
I am learning to breathe in the present moment. To revel in the now. And yet, I will always miss you, Papa.