a sunrise walk with my Dad…

This morning I awakened at about the time I got the call from my sister two years ago letting me know that our father had died. I get up early, not usually in the 4 o’clock hour though.

I wasn’t surprised I stirred early today with Dad on my mind. I got up, quietly pulled on yesterday’s clothes, and waited for the clock on the stove to say 5:00 before I made my coffee. I sat outside and watched the sun begin to rise over the Cape Cod Bay.

My Dad was not an early riser, definitely more of a sunset guy but he would’ve appreciated my sunrise images, especially the coyote tracks in the sand and my obsession with them now.

The coyote is the mascot of my Dad’s much-loved, alma mater—the University of South Dakota. GO YOTES!

A few days before Dad died I called to tell him that Jeff and I got stung by jellyfish while on a kayak excursion. We were FaceTiming so I showed him the welts on my arms and described the way they stung…sort of electric-like if my memory serves me correctly. I had a flight booked to come see him in a few days so we kept our call short.

This morning I remembered a song Dad used to sing to me:

Lisa, Lisa I’ve been thinkin’

what a fine world this would be,

if all the Lisa’s were transported…

far beyond the northern sea.

I miss you Dad, thanks for the company this morning.

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.

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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

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

Rest, in peace, Big Guy.

You will be greatly missed.

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