grief is messy & highly caloric.

I lost my Dad in the early morning hours of August 30th.  He was a generous, loving, humorous and complex man.  He also was in a great deal of pain. Thankfully he no longer is.  But, damnit, he isn’t here anymore either.  Now, I’m in pain and I would like to talk with him about what bullshit it is to lose someone I love.  He knew this pain, he lost his baby brother, my Uncle Tom, almost exactly one year ago.  

I flew home to South Dakota from Vermont the morning Dad died.  I wept through both airports—Burlington, Vermont and Chicago’s O’Hare. I had a light blanket wrapped around my shoulders that dried my tears as needed.  I walked to my gate in Chicago, blanket draped and carrying a garment bag.  I caught the eye of a few people who offered nods of acknowledgement and held my gaze, maybe understanding that grief is messy.

Oddly, I kept hoping I could tell someone, anyone that I just lost my Dad.  I now understand what to do if I see someone else in the shape I was in.  To hell with privacy.  I will offer a hug.  Or I will buy them a coffee.  Or I will ask them why they are crying and listen, even if I only have a minute before my flight.

I arrived mid-afternoon.  Flowers, casseroles, baked goods, fruit baskets, cheese and meat trays had already begun arriving at the house.  The doorbell was ringing.  The landline was ringing.  Our cell phones were ringing and pinging.  Hugs and tears filled Mom’s back entryway and helped eased the weight of it all.

I knew the process of the “business” of death wasn’t going to be easy.  However, writing the obituary, picking out Dad’s casket and clothes, making phone calls and so on—these things kept us busy.  Busy is needed those first few days.  Making arrangements gave us something to focus on with a deadline, providing a little scaffolding to a messy emotional process.

There were times before the prayer service and funeral, I wanted the whole world to just leave me alone in my sorrow, because I just lost my Dad.

Thankfully the world didn’t.

I’m now keenly aware of how I didn’t give nearly enough attention to the loss of other people’s parents.  I’m sorry if I seemed cavalier.  I just didn’t know how much even a small gesture could mean.  I always thought of grief as a private process.  I understand better now what’s necessary to get through it all.

I’m so sorry for your loss, no matter how many years it’s been for you.

The outpouring of love, time and culinary talents from the good folks in Burke, South Dakota made it the whole process a lot more bearable.  No one would’ve loved having all of those goodies around more than John.  Right, Dad?  Although I think he would’ve hidden the bag of Dorothy’s famous peanut butter cookies in the freezer and pretended they were already gone.

I’m grateful to you all.  Thank you so much.

pie and coffee.JPG

PLEASE NOTE:  Is there a metabolic trick that helps burn the calories (mostly from homemade baked goods) that are delivered to the family during a time of loss?

grief + baked goods + casseroles + visiting + crying + fatigue = COMFORT


John Lowell Lillibridge lived 79 years, 3 months & 21 days.

Rest, in peace, Big Guy.

You will be greatly missed.



14 thoughts on “grief is messy & highly caloric.

  1. Oh Lisa such a beautiful tribute to your Dad and know wevgieve with you. I’d planned to bring some food over to you but time slipped by then decided to wait and bring something for Christmas instead. After all the first holidays are so tough when you have lost someone you love beyond measure. Know we have prayers and thought of you all. Hugs and Love❤️❤️❤️❤️

  2. Hi Lisa, I am here if you ever need someone to talk to, I am coming up on the one year anniversary of my dad’s death and it has been a transformative year in so many different ways. Welcome to the Dead Parent Club. It is so true that until you have been through it, it is not explainable, and only those that have been through it can truly understand. It is very messy but keep present for it. Love, Lynne


  3. Lisa, thank you for writing a beautiful tribute to your dad. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew he was a great man. I’m from Chamberlain. My husband’s family is from the Burke area. I hope that your trip back to home country was a help and comfort. Bless you and all who loved your dad.

  4. this is a beautiful and poignant post, lisa

    rings so true.

    honestly, flying and crying suck. an experience i know all too well. even after dropping off oscar in madison and that flight home i cried, and flooding memories of me flying to my dying parents came right back, only to make more tears.

    i am glad you have jeff with you this go around.

    see you tomorrow or sometime soon.

    be well, lisa, my friend


  5. Lisa, sending you hugs ❤you have a special way with words and yes I think during the grieving time-calories don’t count 🍰 But family and friends do ❤love ya

  6. There is no grief that goes without pain. Yet, losing a parent is a unique hurt. I remember driving home from the hospital after my dad died and looking into cars of those beside me wanting to yell, “Why are you laughing? Don’t you know my world just crashed around me? My dad just died!” It has been 17 years and I still think of him daily and the grief changes but it never leaves. I called my dad at work a couple times after he died because it was so ingrained in my daily practice. I am sorry you have lost your dad. It sucks. There’s no sugar coating it.

  7. Lisa, this is so profound, so sad. I can’t imagine and I am thinking of you tons. sending lots of love and hope for brighter better days and for healing.

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