I haven’t written much about the grief of losing my dad. For the first year it all felt too deeply personal and raw. I didn’t know how to talk about the feeling of anguish I’d experience when a grief wave hit, which started hourly, then daily, then weekly, and slowly stretching out further between tears.
His celebration of life last May was cathartic and represented closure for me. Now two years out from his death I wonder if I am about as healed as I may ever be? I’m functioning fine and living life the way he’d want me to, but I still think of him so often, in just little ways each day. I don’t feel like that will ever fade, and I’m OK with it. It keeps him alive and part of our lives. Tears come less often, mostly at poignant moments, like seeing Kris hold up his picture after the Green Bay marathon or hearing a song that conjures up a memory.
Yes, I feel like perhaps I have reached the phase of acceptance. We’ve been grieving for two years as of yesterday, but in some ways we have been grieving for four and a half. Dad’s diagnosis marks a point in our life where there will always be a “before” and an “after.” Confirmed diagnosis of a terminal disease marked the beginning of our grief. I’ve heard it called anticipatory grief, because from that moment everything was different. Confirmed diagnosis robbed us of the ability to casually discuss future plans, something you don’t realize how often you do until it’s not possible anymore, and every sentence that didn’t involve the present here and now created a lump in our throats.
Dad was cremated. Over the past two years we have sprinkled his ashes in places that make us feel connected to him and places he loved, as he requested. Several months ago mom decided to purchase a headstone to put in a cemetery near my Nannie that also has my Pawpaw and great great grandparents, among other family members. I don’t know if that sounds strange, but having a place to go and reflect felt right. Well it just so happened that the headstone was ready for installation on the two year anniversary of his death, so Kris and I headed to mom’s house on Thursday to be there for it.
Thursday evening we ate dinner at Silver Moon, a restaurant we’ve celebrated in many times as a family. We all ordered a martini, a Stathas family tradition, and toasted to dad. I listened to stories from their adventure in Green Bay and we had great time together. Afterwards we took the boat out, as being near water always makes us feel close to dad. It was a gorgeous night and one Dad would have loved.
Friday morning we met the installers at the cemetery along with my Nannie, my aunt, and my uncle. The installation took about 30 minutes and the gravestone is beautiful. While it doesn’t feel good in any way to see his name etched in stone, and especially not mom’s, it did bring a feeling of peace to see proof of a man we all loved so dearly.
Afterwards we chatted on Nannie’s porch for a couple hours, grabbed lunch with my Aunt Lynn, then mom and I did a memory driving tour of Athens (home of The University of Georgia and my ol stomping grounds). We stopped at the peach orchard I used to go to as a kid on our way out of town, which is now the cutest farm stand and nursery. We ate some peach ice cream before heading back to mom’s house.
May will always be a month that holds so much for my family. Dad’s birth and death, the birth of Kaitlyn and my niece, mine and David’s anniversary, my Pawpaw’s death. It’s strange to have a month so filled with joys and sorrows, but it serves as a reminder to “”live life and enjoy it” (as dad would say). So we celebrate the good times and carry those that we have loved and lost forward with us as we continue to do so.