“I am going to need you to help me through this,” was the message my sister-in-law sent to me in a text.
We’ve been through a lot together – she’s been in our family over 30 years. We’ve had some great times, and she knows I would never tell her no – unless she wanted to do something illegal. But, oh, I so wanted to tell her, “no, I can’t help you this time.”
Problem is, I have the experience to help her. And I wish I didn’t. She wishes she didn’t need my help. But she does.
She is now part of the club. The club we didn’t ever want to join. The club that has the most expensive membership of all. The dues are high – no one wants to pay them. No one wants entry into the “My Dad Died Club.”
My dad died sixteen months before her’s did. Both of our dads died due to complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. That life-sucking, memory-killing, obnoxious, horrid, dreaded stupid disease took down two good guys that we loved dearly. She watched us suffer and she supported us. We watched her suffer and we supported her. Our families are like so many others these days, witnessing this awful disease and its devastation.
So when she called me, crying, and asking me to help her, my heart was breaking. Of course I would be there for her. This awful Club is big – and gets bigger every year. I had plenty of friends that were there for me, guiding me and listening to my stories and just being a presence as I grieved – and continue to grieve.
I will be there for her, because I know what she will go through, and it won’t be easy.
She will experience a wide range of emotions, and it shouldn’t surprise her to laugh and cry at the same time, though she will think she’s lost it.
She will smile at his memory, and cry when she hears his favorite song – sometimes simultaneously.
Her birthday will never be the same. Nor will his.
The first year of holidays will be difficult to get through, but she will do so for her children.
Father’s Day will be difficult.
The anniversary of his passing will sting. She may relive each and every moment, not because she wants to remember the suffering, but because those moments, as hard as they were, are the last precious minutes she spent with him. And difficult though they may be, she will savor the memory.
She will see a gray-haired gentleman and look for her dad.
She will turn to ask him something, and then she will cry.
Her days will feel empty. Her heart will feel heavy.
The best advice I received regarding the grief process was from a dear friend. She gently said, “You can’t go around it; you just have to go right through it.”
My sister-in-law will get through it with the help of those who’ve been there. We will love her and support her when she is a sobbing mess one minute… and back to her usual self the next.
We seasoned Club members will pray for her. We will hurt for her.
We will get it when she calls her dad, “Daddy.”
We will understand why she wants to talk about him. And we will encourage her to continue to talk to him.
We will understand her needing time to process this great loss. And we know it may never make any sense.
We know that, even though she won’t believe it today, that each day makes one a little bit stronger.
We will encourage her to cry, and tell her stupid jokes to make her laugh.
We know she will survive, because so far, we have.
We know she is stronger than she thinks she is, because when we were told we were strong, we didn’t believe it, either.
We know that when it is her time to comfort someone who enters the Club, she will do so with grace. It will be hard, because she will remember her own hurt. She will cry for the new member, because she knows their pain.
But she will love and guide her friend, because that is what we Club members do.
And our dads would be proud.
© 2012 – Lynne Cobb