This post is a little different…. but something that has been on my heart and I feel needs to be shared. I named it the Front Row. The most dreaded pew in a church to me. One I have thankfully not had to sit on until losing Daddy. And it has been eye opening and heart breaking. Not saying that I haven’t lost anyone or been to a funeral that didn’t break my heart. But having your special seat on the Front Row sucks big green boogers.
It was a Sunday. A gorgeous, beautiful, cool springtime Sunday. February 18th, 2018. David and I, along with his Uncle had headed to the deer lease early that morning to get our tractor in order to spread the 327,465 piles of rock we had delivered. We were getting ready to get married in April and decided to spend our “venue” money on our home and get married there. I got a new pot that day too. A new magnalite stock pot that I was SUPER excited about.
After we got home, we got busy unloading the tractor and working on the yard. And for some reason neither of us took our phones out of the truck. Which in hindsight was a blessing…. He taught me to drive the tractor. We laughed and worked and enjoyed the day. I had bounced out to the shop to get us a cold beer and was halfway back across the yard when I saw my sweet brother-in-law come sliding in the driveway…. with unfathomable news. Daddy was gone. Passed away in his sleep during his Sunday nap. And I freaking. lost. it. To the point the neighbors came out of their homes. And I am pretty sure my husband had to chase me down and tackle me.
Then the business of death took over. The slow drive to my parents home. Being super angry at all the rubber neckers on the street. Waiting on the Justice of the Peace. Calling family, friends, etc. Making the appointment to make arrangements. I remember after the funeral home took him… I wiped the same counter over and over and over and over again. Shock set in and goodness I wish it had stayed. Because when it wore off, the soul sucking monster of grief took its place and left me shattered. Inconsolably broken. A wine drunk, snot slinging, sobbing, screaming pile of insanity. I made deals with the Devil, I prayed to and cursed God. I begged my husband to take me to the funeral home so I could stay with him. Nights were horrible and usually ended with being tucked in to bed like a sniveling toddler and crying myself to sleep. The days weren’t the greatest, but again, the business of death… arrangements, picking out his plot, tons of phone calls, shopping for funeral attire.
Visitation was the worst. It went by in a tear filled exhausting blur. And then came his funeral. And my very own seat on the damn Front Row. Every funeral I have every attended my eyes have been drawn to the people on the Front Row. I’ve tried to imagine what they must be going through and how horrible a time this must be for them. And I’ve shed my share of tears for them and prayed diligently for them. But after the fact, my life went on. I thought about them, wondered how they were, maybe even saw them every day… but never comprehended the horrible aftermath the profound loss of someone who was your everything.
Until my turn. Until hours of hugs and tears and I’m sorry’s. Until you are surrounded by so many flowers the smell of them gags you. Until the one person you can’t imagine living without is wheeled passed you in a flag draped coffin. Until you leave your Front Row seat for a time warp of a drive to the cemetery where another Front Row seat awaits. Until your husband and the funeral director physically remove you from the graveside. Until you make your self choke down a wonderful meal prepared by those who love you. Until you sleep for 72 hours after because grief has literally shut you down.
If you have never had a seat on the Front Row I both envy you and feel bad for you at the same time. Being a part of this club is no picnic; however, not knowing how to be a part of the club is equally devastating. My sister and husband have belonged to this club for years…. and knew the sh*t storm of grief that I was about to endure. And the term sh*t storm is putting it lightly. And needless to say I was (am) not a poster child for dealing with it. Because I did not how. No one does. I was lucky to have my husband and sister there to guide me down the dark, tear filled, muddy road to which there seems to be no end.
And you might ask… where was your faith in all of this? Don’t you trust God? Why didn’t you turn to Him? The answer is simple. I was angry as hell at Him. My life was absolutely, positively perfect, you hear me? And the audacity of Him to take my Daddy? How DARE He. So I just stopped. Stopped praying, stopped thanking Him, and going to church was out of the question. Big mistake.
The first months after I did pretty well. David went back to work. I went back to work. I kept myself so busy so I didn’t have time to grieve. I planted 73 tomato plants. Too many pepper plants to count. Filled every pot with flowers. Busied myself with our wedding plans. We got married and had a beautiful wedding. And Dad was with us. Celebrated Easter. We got sweet Huck in May. Life was moving on and I was doing seemingly well. And then came June.
I spent all day one Saturday in the yard… worked my a** off. Had a wonderful day. So I decided to reward myself with a good bottle of wine. And that’s when the wheels came off. I fell into a downward spiral of grief that night that you cannot fathom. My husband had to come home from work. It was not my finest hour. But it was finally the bottom. And from there, with his help I slowly began to crawl my way out.
February will mark three years without Dad. And I have learned to deal with it for the most part. But it will never leave and I will forever carry the scars and from time to time will succumb to that ugly monster of grief. I know my triggers as does my husband. He knows when I need my phone taken away or the music changed. He knows before I do when I am going to have a bad day and/or night. He knows how the death of someone close to us has the ability to send me back over the cliff. And he drags me back from the brink (and out of bed) every time. God love him. There are never enough words to thank him for what he has stood by me through. And my sister. She has been unwavering from day one. She has been there, done that, got the t-shirt, autograph and the book on grief. And she still stands and gives me strength when I don’t have a drop. But the best thing they have done for me is to not sugar coat. None of this “time heals” and “they are in a better place” crap. David gave me one of the best pieces of advice…. “You will never get over it… you just learn to live around it.” How true that is. Will I ever be the same? Will it ever stop hurting? No and Hell No. And still sometimes it is a big ol roadblock that stops me in my tracks.
The below is an excerpt from somewhere and somebody and was sent to me by my sister. And I read it all the time. It is the most accurate description of grief.
“In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out.
But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.”
“Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself.
And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.”
“Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
However, my time on the Front Row is finally changing me for the better. I am beginning to want to cultivate my relationships with my family again instead of avoid them for fear that something might happen to them and it will be easier. I have made peace with God and trust in Him for everything, even though I don’t understand some things. I am trying to be a better human. I don’t always succeed, but I am trying. And that’s all we can do is try.
Because we are all going to end up on the Front Row eventually. And my prayer is that you remember you are not alone in that seat. God is with you and heck, I may not know you or maybe I do. But let me know. I’ll be glad to sit with you.