To say that 2020 has been a crazy year is the understatement of the century. I am totally done with 2020 and it’s only May 4th.
For nearly everyone, this year has been “unprecedented”. In a deeply personal way, it has been quite unprecedented for my family and me, too.
After a 12 year battle with ovarian cancer, my step-mom of 33 years passed away quietly on January 4th. She had LIVED all of those years, vibrantly and without excuses. She was a warrior until she couldn’t be, then she left on her own terms. Her many friends and family honored her at her wake and funeral. She was loved by so many!
For my 86-year-old father, this was his second wife lost to the beast, cancer. Watching him struggle with his own health while attending his wife’s funeral was beyond heart-wrenching.
Concern for his safety and well-being in a large, two-story home quickly became the biggest issue for my siblings and me. How would he care for himself alone? Would he let us help him? (He wasn’t good with help from anyone, let alone his children).
He answered all our questions when 18 days after my step-mom’s, my dad took his last, quiet breath in hospice care, my oldest brother sitting nearby. In less that three weeks, my siblings and I, and all 15 of their grandchildren, lost them both. 2020 was off to a less then stellar start, and dealing with it was nightmarish.
The folks at the funeral home were surprised to see us again so soon; they treated my sister and me with an abundance of grace and compassion. Professionals through and through, they were wonderfully human at the same time. I’m still in awe.
On a bright day, the first sunny day since the new year, we said goodbye to my father. As a US Army veteran, we chose to have an honor guard for him; a couple of soldiers to play taps and ceremoniously remove and fold the US flag my father always wanted. The irony of the two soldiers being women was not lost on us.
My father was gentleman. He opened doors, held chairs, was the lead in a dance, walked on the street side of the sidewalk, gave up his seat and a multitude of other generosities for women.
He was also very opinionated about what women could and couldn’t do, including me, his eldest daughter, when I became a firefighter/paramedic. Seeing the two highly polished, professional FEMALE soldiers honoring him at his final resting place gave us all a subdued chuckle.
Very quickly, reality set in we when collectively thought, “Now what?” There were wills to sort out, bills to pay, utilities to cancel, a house to empty and sell…and probate. Ugh.
It was totally beyond me to deal with it. I am so grateful for my sister and step-sister who, as co-executors of the wills, took the proverbial bull by the horns and managed everything. My brothers and step-brother were amazing, too, pitching in, clearing parts of the house, dealing with attorneys, and sitting in on meetings with financial peeps in order to sort out the jumbled mess dying too close together creates.
I mostly stayed away. Before I go further, I want to make this very clear – I loved and respected both of my parents. They both cared about me and my family, and they both did some really wonderful things for me over the years. I never want to take that away from them.
However – you knew an “however” was coming – our relationship was challenging, and at times, toxic. I love deeply, so when I get hurt, I get hurt deeply.
I carry no grudges; forgiveness abounds, but I learned that it was in my best interest, and my children’s best interest, to limit the time we spent together. That sounds sad, but was absolutely necessary.
My family and I were rarely in my parents home over the last decade, so we had little attachment to the things there. I wished to have only a few items that were my mom’s or that I had given as gifts, and I collected those shortly after the funerals. I had no interest in cleaning out their house.
I’d already done that once, when I was nineteen years old. Two years after my mom died, my dad married my step-mom. It was OK. We knew her, and she was good for him.
However, we sold our home, she sold her home, and we moved into the house they stayed in for 33 years.
Guess who had to rummage through everything in the crawlspace, the closets, the basement and every nook and cranny of every room in the house?
I didn’t have help. There wasn’t anyone around to help me pack stuff, or cry with me over my mother’s childhood dollhouse furniture I found in a box in the back of crawlspace. More irony – the newspaper her dollhouse items were wrapped in was dated with my birthday, several decades before I was born.
When the time came to do it again, this time for the final time, I simply couldn’t. I tried, but my siblings, wonderful and amazing humans, have strong personalities and opposing viewpoints on many topics. Being together with them in the same confined space, even if it was 2300 sq ft of confined space, was more than I could deal with emotionally.
They had strong opinions on when things needed to be accomplished and did an outstanding job of hitting, even beating, their own deadlines. The house went on the market, and as of late last week, is under contract. Selling the house is important and absolutely necessary, but it makes the loss very, very final.
In the midst of all the personal emotional stressors, this unprecedented worldwide thing is happening. We have to plan when we will be at the house to maintain proper social distancing. The closing will likely happen virtually or in a Zoom meeting. Zoom used to be a children’s show I watched with my siblings. Now, it’s the tool we use to conduct meetings and real estate closings.
I am grateful we were able to have their funerals, unlike so many today who cannot. I am grateful for a large family who were willing to take on tasks I was not. I am grateful to be employed when so many are not. And yet, amid my abundant gratefulness, I hesitantly embrace the sadness and grief while closing a chapter of life called “my parents.”
While attempting to title this post, one of my ideas was – 2020, I want a do-over. Ummm…no. No way. No do-overs for this year. That would suck.
Instead of doing it over, I – we – will move forward. Sometimes we will go quickly, sometimes we will crawl on our hands and knees in gut-wrenching pain, but we will move forward. For, as a very dear friend of mine always says, “Forward is a pace.”
Psalm 34:18 (ESV)
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Matthew 11:29 (ESV)
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Many blessings to all of you. Stay well and wash your hands.
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