I don’t talk about my family or personal life too much here but now more than ever I’m craving connection and community and a place to talk so here goes.
On April 10th 2020 my father passed away. 10 years ago he had a massive cerebral hemorrhage (a stroke) that left him severely compromised. The first 5 years of his recovery were very hopeful, he regained his ability to speak and walk but then things plateaued and then went down hill again in a very slow and steady way. Watching my father decline has been one of the hardest things to I’ve ever done. He was a marathon runner, very active, a hard worker, a jokester, always laughing, always positive, believed in the power of crystals and energy work, was a devout catholic, and above all else loved my mother and his family.
To avoid crowds and infecting my mother with the virus, my husband and I drove down to Memphis to be with my mom right after he died. It was an 18 hour journey both ways and I think both of us needed every minute of it. I didn’t realize until I left our Brooklyn home that this pandemic has really affected me. As soon as I saw open pastures in Pennsylvania and then the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina I started to breathe more deeply. I think I have been quietly holding my breath in New York since the quarantine - waiting to get sick, waiting for another issue to arise that I need to solve. Overall I have been seeing the positive through this time but I have been craving nature and craving connection with my people and I didn’t realize I was also constricting myself. Driving to be with my mom was non-negotiable for me. My gut told me to go and so I couldn’t be talked out of it (although many people tried). And I am realizing now the trip was equal parts for me and for my mom. We both needed to breath together more deeply.
My mother is a powerhouse. She was in the camp of people trying to talk me out of driving down. She took care of my dad full time for 10 years and never complained once. She was there through the hopeful times and for the dark and painful times. In her I saw a type of strength that I have never witnessed before in my life. Her ability to continue to see the joy in things is truly remarkable. My dad struggled with anxiety but she was able to rear that tension and turn it into creativity. She took my dad on canoe trips on the Wolf River under a full moon when he wasn’t able to walk, she gave him huge canvases to paint on left-handed when he lost mobility of his right hand, she helped him write in a journal daily, she combed his hair, shaved him, bathed him, cooked mushy meals for him so he could swallow, and she did this for ten whole years without even thinking twice about any other option. Witnessing her love and strength as been a guiding light for me as an adult.
I’ve thankfully had many years to process my dad’s passing and grieve him slowly and I am so grateful for that, but after being in Memphis with my mom what I am left feeling emotional about is my mom’s unbelievable power and strength. While we were home we laughed about my dad, retold some of his best jokes, cooked together, and took walks through tall green trees. Every so often a wave of grief would come over us but it always passed swiftly and we felt good afterwards, just like a cool summer breeze. I really don’t know how she remains so strong but I thank my lucky stars that this baby girl I have inside me has a piece of that strength too now.
I am sure as time passes the phases of grief will change and evolve and we will continue to process my fathers death during this pandemic and beyond, but for now I feel him watching over me and the baby girl inside me. I can already feel his love for her and sometimes I hear his joyful laugh urging me to believe everything is exactly as it should be.