I believe my father's death saved my life.
I don't believe he died TO save my life, I believe his death has resulted in the saving of my life.
Not just because the very last heart-to-heart we had was about my needing to lose weight. Not just because his death at an early age (of a heart attack) has really forced me to take action on said weight loss.
Given even half the chance, I'd want him right back here with me, telling me off for whatever it is I did or did not do correctly in the world according to his rules. But still, in this moment - I think there was purpose in my loss.
Death, loss, tragedy or misfortune - all of these really force us to re-evaluate our lives. You know when you hear about children in trouble for one horrible reason or another, and you just want to run home and hug your own children as hard as you can? Or you hear about a young person contracting some disease, or disappearing on vacation, or some other far-too-soon tragic act and it makes you just - think- about your own life? Or (as was the case for a friend of mine this week) you hear about disaster being narrowly averted because of a carbon monoxide detector...and you go out and buy one just in case? Life is full of moments where we stop and think for a moment about our lives - sometimes only briefly enough to give our kids that hug, sometimes longer (the time it takes to go and buy a carbon monoxide detector) or sometimes...even longer than that. Months and months, or years and years, of reflection and change because of a single -or maybe a series - of tragic or near-tragic events having an impact on us.
Losing my Dad forced me to re-evaluate everything in my life - and that's a pretty normal reaction to grief, I suppose. The months before he died were not great ones for me. My weight had gotten out of control. I was working far too many hours in too many jobs and not making enough money to make either job really worth the effort. At least two of my kids were struggling, and I had not the foggiest clue how to help them. My house was a bit of a disaster zone. Life was just one big ball of mess - and while at the time I would have said things were pretty okay, in retrospect they were very far from okay. I guess I just got used to it, the way you do when life gets in the way of you actually taking any action on anything. Because (as my DH would say) 'comfort and inertia' keep you exactly where you are.
Since he's been gone, I've slowly but surely used the time to heal - not only to heal the giant gaping hole he left behind, but also to heal the ME he left behind. So I've held up my end of the promise I made about the weight. I've looked after my kids the best way I know how - which is intuitively, and which is via action rather than hoping it will all blow over. I've worked really hard to define those things in my life which are truly important to me, and I've honoured those things with my time and attention. I've made some big decisions, some small decisions, and learned that I'm an adult now, even though I was pretty convinced I'd never grow up. While I won't ever stop wanting my parents approval, or need to sometimes lean on my Mom for support...I've come to the realisation that I don't NEED those things as much as I just plain WANT them, and recognising that there is a difference is a step in and of itself. Wanting comfort and approval is okay. Needing them in order to feel worthy, or in order to make forward movement in my life ...well, that's just pointless.
Losing my Dad saved my life.
My physical life - because as much as I cared to pretend it wasn't happening, the way I was behaving was a form of slow suicide.
My emotional life - because as much as I cared to pretend it wasn't happening, the way I was behaving was a form of slow suicide.
Those two sentences are the same because I was managing to be self-destructive on two paths at the same time (hey, always an over-achiever, right?).
I can't say I've got it all figured out now, that everything is just hunky-dory and I've got all my shit together. To borrow a very cliche term - it's a process. I can only say that, in the past 18 months, I've grown up. And while I can't say it was all my Dad's doing (even though he would LOVE to take the credit), I can only say that while I'd have him back in a heartbeat...for me, I've reached a place where at least his death had purpose.
Thanks, Aba. I always said you were the kind of guy who makes things happen. Turns out I was right.
Friday, February 11, 2011
I believe my father's death saved my life.