I lost my dad seven years ago.
I adored him. He was my guy. He was diagnosed with cancer in mid-August and died in early January. Christmas season was awful, to say the least. I knew this would be his last Christmas. My last time to ever give a gift to my dad.
What do you get a man dying of stage 4 cancer? What earthly possessions does he need? What would be meaningful but not remind him of the little time he would have with the gift?
What do you get a man dying of stage 4 cancer? What earthly possessions does he need?
My dad loved the English rock band Yes. I mean he loved all rock ‘n roll, but he had a special connection to this band. He and my mom went to more than 30 of their concerts together. I grew up listening to them and have fond memories of sitting on his lap as a little girl and him trying to teach me one of their songs.
I also remember trying really hard to impress him, but I’m terrible at memorizing lyrics. My dad would try to hide his frustration with a tight smile and a “Let’s try it again.”
The lead singer, Jon Anderson, now in his 70’s, truly has a voice that is not of this world. It’s both heartbreaking and angelic. It’s just everything. So I decided to take a real shot in the dark and email Jon’s publicist to see if I could possibly get in touch with him.
The response email from his publicist made my heart drop. He told me he would do his best but could not promise anything. To even know there was a sliver of hope was so meaningful to me in that time of despair.
A few days later, a little gift arrived in my inbox. There it was. A subject that read, “Jon Anderson here…” I couldn’t open it quickly enough. This man who was such an idol to my dad and had such an impact on my youth, had written to me.
Here is what it read. In the exact format, because for some reason, it’s significant to me:
“Hi Lauren, please send my best love to your father. I will send something. Send me his name and an address. Our souls are eternal, and angels will be with him to help him into the next world. Love and light, Jon.”
The card itself held a beautiful message to my father. Watching my father open up the card on Christmas day was an experience unlike any other. I was weeping before I even gave it to him. I was feeling everything—the pride I had of being his daughter, the sadness of knowing this was my last time to write “To: Dad; Love: Lauren” or the anticipation to see the look on his face when he read his personalized message.
In the last days before he died, the reality that I couldn’t save my father weighed heavily on me. Although I couldn’t save him and I had no control, this man’s generosity and spirit gave me the opportunity to have a little bit of control, to brighten his last days and to assure him that he was so loved by all and connected to the world even though he had one foot out.
Although I couldn’t save him and I had no control, this man’s generosity and spirit gave me the opportunity to have a little bit of control.
I found something I wrote in my journal on New Year’s Eve, eight days before my dad died.
“Well, my parents were able to give each other a New Year’s kiss and my heart melted to pudding. My mom leaned over onto my father’s death bed and kissed a spark—a second of life into him—and him to her. Then, he pulled her back in for more kisses—something that took all of the energy he could muster up. I wonder if he stayed still the whole day so that when the time came, he would have reserved enough energy to reel his wife back in for more kisses.”
Loss is hard, strange to process and gray. If you are in the middle of a loss and you feel weird or not like yourself, it’s OK. If you think you feel too weird, please remember that your pain is not made invalid by other people’s inability to properly acknowledge or understand it. You are still you. Also, aren’t we all better versions of ourselves when we are weird anyways?
Have you ever lost someone close to you? How do you deal with the grief that comes with loss and death, particularly around the holidays?
Image via Raisa Zwart Photography