One year ago today, I woke up in an unfamiliar place that was quickly becoming too familiar. I looked out the double glass doors at a sky bathed in pink and the soft hazy fog floating up from the still lake and I knew without a doubt that it would be the day my dad died.
I washed his hands and picked up a previously ignored Bible, using the internet to find an appropriate passage to read and I read it out loud to him twice. I tidied the room and opened the blinds and put on some music.
A few hours later, I held his hand in mine as he took his last gentle breaths to the song My God Is Real.
It was a beautiful ending.
Honestly, you couldn't choreograph a more peaceful and perfect death. It was an honor to be there and to care for him. It was and will always be one of the most lovely and spiritual moments of my existence.
It was also one of the most traumatizing events of my life, despite knowing that my reality was fortunate in comparison to what others have endured. I have spent the last year in a near constant struggle not to think about it, with only an occasional emotional prod, like one might deliver to an infected tooth, to check to see if it was all real and if it still hurt.
It was and it does.
It took 344 days before I could listen to that song again and I was overcome by its beauty and how fitting it was. It finally felt good to hear it. On that same day, I remembered a voice mail from him that I had saved in a moment of prescience and felt ready and excited to listen to it -- a simple, "Hey, Rat, it's just me. Call me back," using a lifelong nickname I never particularly liked, which was also the last word he ever said.
And as I picked up my phone, I remembered mass deleting all of my voicemails one day in a fit of frustration over limited storage and I don't know if I've ever regretted anything more in my entire life and I have many regrets. Mr. Ashley called the service provider without me knowing to inquire about getting it back, but no luck.
I'm still so mad: at myself, at cancer, at Apple, at the universe, at life and at death and sometimes even at him. I should have the voicemail. I should have more than just the voicemail. I should have never let that call go to voicemail. I should have my dad. It's all so complicated.
The purpose of this post was originally to commemorate him but also to announce that I'm doing so much better now because at least I can think about it, I can hear the music, I can look back on that time with gratitude, but I think most of what I wrote above may make that assertion questionable. Again, it's complicated.
On March 29th, I will be participating in an event to raise money for the Cancer Alliance of Naples, an organization that generously helps with the financial needs of patients by helping to cover even the regular daily expenses that seem insurmountable (and unimportant) to people who already have too much to worry about. Even this is part of my progress -- I have been asked by so many to contribute to or participate in similar events in the past year and I selfishly couldn't even pretend to consider it.
I earned that selfishness and if you're feeling similarly right now, I not only understand, I wish I could slice your pain up into little pieces and take a good-sized chunk for myself to save you from feeling all of it alone.
However, I need your support if you can give it. Reading this is enough (really--if you only knew what a catharsis your attention provides, you'd send me an invoice for therapy) but a donation could help someone else. The official fundraising site, Crowdrise, requires a $10 minimum which I think is a bummer since $1 from many can do so much, but I looked into other options and, frankly, I'm at maximum capacity when it comes to thinking about it. Baby steps and all.
So if you're willing and able and interested, would you consider throwing in $10 to lessen the pain of someone else who may be heading down the same path?
I'm stepping way outside of my comfort zone by asking, but I've been outside of my comfort zone for so long now that I might just stay here. I might just set up a lawn chair and a cooler and ask you to join me while we make a new comfortable discomfort zone.
So, here's the campaign page.
Contribute if you can and/or just enjoy a moment of silence (or better yet, Willie Nelson) for my dad.