I’ve been navigating some difficult emotions the past few months. I’ve been struggling to find a healthy balance, and to remain functional enough to be successful at my newest job that I feel so fortunate to have been given; and where I desperately want to be the high performer my bosses need me to be as the company continues to grow almost too quickly for us to keep up with.
While at the same time, I’m feeling the weight of so much in my mind and on my heart.
Most days, I wish I could just stay burrowed under the covers with Hippo, and pretend that the rest of the world is on pause until I can get my shit together.
Since life waits for no one, I keep dragging myself up each morning. I keep placing one foot in front of the other, I keep putting on a semi-brave face (although those who know me can see right through the mask), and hardest of all – I keep breathing.
The Holiday season is always hard. We lost my beloved Uncle Terry on December 2nd, 2011… our first Christmas without him was – to say the least – bittersweet.
Those memories start to surface every Thanksgiving. It was during those last few days in November that we were all together, we had our final conversations, our last “I love you,” and we essentially watched him slip into a peaceful sleep and never wake up.
Then January comes along, and my dear Papa’s birthday is on the 14th.
Those days, and the surrounding days, are heavy and sad. I miss my Dad, I miss my Uncle, and it’s on the anniversaries and birthdays where I’ve come to accept that I feel as raw and ripped open as I did the first few years they were gone.
The ten year anniversary of my father’s death is this week. A decade has passed. In some ways, I think – “How is this possible?”
In other ways, I feel like the Molly I remember – that 24-year-old girl – who was she? How can I get her back, at least the things I miss about her? How can I have grown, and changed, and experienced so much in a mere decade?
It’s been a long journey.
Following my Dad’s cancer diagnosis in August of 2000, and his first surgery in September, his initial prognosis was 18 months. Had he chosen to remain with my mother and I, those 18 months would have been as peaceful as possible. His dignity would’ve remained until he took his final breath, and he’d have passed away in the place he loved more than any other – my childhood home in Maryland.
Instead, with the support of his family, he chose to fight the inevitable.
My father’s tumor was stage four, and it was located on his frontal lobe – this is the part of the brain where your personality forms and resides.
In short, his diagnosis was a death sentence.
His emotions, his memory, his unique little quirks – the essence of who he was – all of it faded further and further away with each surgery.
The doctors would cut deeper and deeper into his brain – for what? To remove a few more cancer cells? To continue extending his ‘life’ to the point where he ended up in an assisted living facility needing around-the-clock care?
I will never understand.
I understand not wanting someone you love to die. Of course I do, that’s part of being human. What I don’t understand, nor do I accept, is fighting battles that are lost before they begin.
Some forms of cancer can be fought and conquered. If caught early enough, some can be eliminated. Others can be managed with continuous treatment, and the patients are able to maintain their quality of life.
The last time I saw my father, I remember feeling like he was already gone, and had been for quite some time. What remained was a nearly empty shell, with no dignity, and no recollection of what it meant to truly be alive.
He was almost childlike in his actions and his speech. Even those trademark baby blue eyes of his that people still remember, were clouded and hazy… they held the same sweetness, but nothing more – nothing deeper.
Nothing was left that made him my Dad.
The last time I spoke with him over the phone, a month or so before he passed, he had deteriorated even more. Like an infant, he couldn’t remember how tie his shoes, get himself dressed, or construct a complete sentence.
I feel fortunate that he never forgot who I was. I could always hear the recognition in his voice when I spoke. He was able to tell me he loved me, he missed me, and he wanted to go home.
Underneath his words, I could hear the sadness, the loneliness, and the longing to be free from his cage.
I remember hearing one of his care nurses firmly saying in the background, “Drew, you need to wear a diaper, do you understand me?”
I asked him, “Dad, what happened?”
He said, “Oh… it’s nothing… I just kinda shit myself.”
Choking back the tears and the anger and the humiliation I felt on his behalf, I told him that I was sorry and that it was okay – even though it obviously wasn’t.
At 34 years old, I can reflect and acknowledge that bearing witness to this process, even from across the country, was affecting me, shaping me, and breaking me into a thousand painful pieces.
My father passed away on April 6th, 2007. It was Good Friday.
I’d felt strange that whole day, and I couldn’t identify why – other than I was just having an ‘off’ day.
I went to the gym after work, just like any other Friday, and afterwards went home to take a shower. My phone rang almost the instant I turned the water off and reached for my towel.
The muscles in my stomach clenched for no reason, other than I felt an intuitive instinct about what was coming. When I answered the call and heard my Aunt Cheryl’s voice speak the words, “I’m afraid your Dad has passed away”…
I let out a deep, releasing sigh of pure RELIEF.
I didn’t cry – not then. I was too grateful. I hung up the phone, and I thanked God, over and over and over again.
“FINALLY, he is free,” I thought.
Tears and grief came later. Over two years later, in fact.
The timing was right, I was ready (I didn’t think I was ready, but I was) and by the grace of divine intervention I walked into my personal savior’s office.
She was – and is – a therapist whom I learned within the first few minutes of our session had lost her mother to the exact same tumor that had taken my father.
It was fate. The trust was instant, the connection was profound, and together we dived into deeper, darker, more painful places buried inside of me than I ever thought I’d be ready to face – but she was holding my hand and guiding me every step of the way.
For three years, we worked through loss, grief, trauma, assault, and connecting the dots that traced all the way back to early childhood. We worked on putting pieces of my puzzle back together that I didn’t even realize were out of place.
There were breakthroughs, tears, and moments where I fully understood why people quit therapy. It’s REALLY fucking hard, and you often feel worse before you even begin to feel better.
But I was committed. I knew I needed to face, and embrace, my demons.
I learned that everything is connected – the events of our lives are like a woven tapestry. Each thread has its place, and when there is a rip in the fabric, or when the threads become tattered and start to unravel – the tapestry loses its design.
As Plato once said, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”
My therapist showed me how beautiful my tapestry was, and how worthy it was of being seen, admired, and loved. She helped me find my inner light again.
There are honestly times when I miss her so much, I could easily break down and cry. I miss her, and I wish I could work through whatever aspect of my crazy is on the surface. Right now it’s a LOT of crazy.
I do my best to remember the tools she gave me, and everything she taught me in our three years of weekly sessions.
I remember what she said to me before I left Albuquerque in 2012 – “You’ve got this, sweet girl.”
When I hear her voice in my mind, I’m comforted knowing that she’s still in my corner.
Letting go doesn’t mean that you forget what’s happened to you. It means that you’re letting go of how your life was before it happened, so you can move forward.
Right now, I’m struggling with moving forward. I want to find that balance – I want to honor my losses and acknowledge my pain – but not at the sacrifice of living, loving and experiencing my life NOW. In this moment.
Right now, I feel so wasted – and I have no one to hold accountable other than myself, and my own irrational fears.
What I wouldn’t give, for one more day. One more day with my Dad, one more day with my Uncle Terry. The painful reality? These days will never come.
What I do have, is one more day tomorrow, and the day after.
How do I stop wasting them?
I need guidance. I need healing. I need to once again see that my tapestry is beautiful, worthy, and that my inner light – however dim – is still there.
Calling all angels.