I have survived the first week of school. It went pretty well. I missed teaching and the kids. There is something special about the first week of school, when the kids are a little scared and trying to make a good impression.
A lot of my students from last year have come looking for me and have asked how my father is. They knew he was ill, but are surprised when I tell them he died. A couple times little girls have actually teared up.
Being back I knew people might ask how it was to be home and how my father is. What I didn’t expect from people is the comment…Wow you had a really long vacation! They seemed to skipped over the terminal illness and death thing. I had a particularly awkward encounter with my neighbor. First she commented on my long vacation, I said I went home because my father was very ill—he had cancer. So then she asked what kind. I said prostate because I don’t know how to say endocrine tumor in Turkish. She said, oh..that’s not so bad, my father has that, then she asked how my father was now. Dead. I think she has been avoiding eye contact.
On my quest to have a more balanced life, I have been going to bed earlier this year. It makes such a difference to go to sleep at 10 instead of 12. It makes the morning so much less painful. On the other hand, it is a habit that makes mornings come early. It means that by 9 am this morning, I had showered, blown my hair dry, had breakfast, and walked the dog. I had tried to sleep in, but to no avail. I have a wedding to go to tonight. I will have to take a nap to be able to stay conscious past 10!
Thursday night my father died. We were so stunned and exhausted that we came home, had a drink and went to bed. It took us a long time to go to sleep. I know this because I slept with my mom that night. Neither one of us wanted to sleep by ourselves.
Friday we woke up, and the sun was still shining, and my father was still dead. I made pea soup, called my husband, researched how to submit obituaries and managed not to die of sadness.
Saturday I woke up, and the sun was still shining, and my father was still dead. It helped to know that my husband was coming in Saturday night. My brother’s girlfriend is amazing. She was (and is) so helpful. She was at the hospital all afternoon on Thursday, brought sandwiches, and helped advocate for my father. She drove down to Boston and picked up my husband from the Boston airport at 11:30 PM and then drove 2 hours north to our home.
I have felt so supported by my family and friends, people sending food and calling. Many of my friends emailed me such wonderful things. One friend tried to move heaven and earth to get food and flowers delivered to my remote home. Another went through my closet finding clothes I asked to be sent to the States with Bülent. The last few days have been extremely difficult, but with the help of friends and family it has been, maybe not less painful, but a more supported journey.
Born 1943-Died January 19, 2012 after a long and valiant battle with cancer.
Dan was a complex person, passionate about life and his family. He had a raucous sense of humor and a quick wit—he filled our lives with warmth and mirth. He fought for the best he could provide, for our family and our community. As a man of conviction, he may have butted heads with others along the way, but never let that get in the way of his integrity and honor. Despite the many hardships he’s encountered, he’s always been an adamant optimist. I think there are few people who could survive what he had and still be able to say that.
He was a fighter, when he was first diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago, he fought with a vengeance. I remember him telling me he just couldn’t leave when we were so little. I am grateful to him for that, that though I still feel “little,” I am now an adult who knows my own mind and heart, largely due to him.
He had a presence so huge that it is hard to imagine a world without him. I am grateful for every moment I had with him, and every memory I have for the future.
I LOVE the holidays! I love the warmth and the cheer. I like the brightly decorated tree and the decadent food. It is also a time for friends and family. Which brings us to the bittersweet. In those family times there is intense love and joy and there is pain. We always miss the ones who are gone. The loss haunts us at he holidays. For some more than others. I miss my grandparents, but when death is expected, when illness is long and slow, the grief is healthy and the wound heals. But for some loss –the wound never heals, it aches and festers and becomes a part of your experience. Maybe it would be better if I had faith, if I belived in the after life and a loving God. But I don’t –so there is no comfort for me there.
My brother died 19 years ago. He has now been dead for longer than he was alive. He was not ill, it was not expected and the grief has never dissipated. Perhaps because I grieve not only for what I lost, what he lost, what my family lost, but for what could have been. For what should have been.
My brother took his own life. Ten days before Christmas. I think that is why I can not let go, why I haven’t healed. Why the pain still takes my breathe away when I least expect it. Why I don’t feel comfortable mentioning him to my family even though I know they are thinking about it too. Because it is like a knife wound and I do not want to inflict it upon them if they are having a movement of peace.
The holidays are here. Warm and Fun. Gift shopping, gift giving, cooking, eating, laughing. Loving. Remembering. Bittersweet.