Tearing Off the Bandaids To Become What I Need to Be

What does it say when my Fitbit says “Hug me, Runner Girl?” I sure could use a hug. One of my classes really made my heart hurt today. While I could avoid this pain, I won’t. I know that I have a voice brought from the agony of my loss which included the loss of Phil and the dreams, hopes, and expectations I had of growing old with him. I missed being a “witness to his life” at the end, but I know our love has transformed me into a better version of me and that the pain from the bandaid coming loose today will surely shore up and bring me to an understanding heart for those who struggle. I may not have any answers, but I can be an active participant in someone else’s journey.

One of the hardest aspects of a person who is in the throes of dying is that the illness is what gets all of the attention. People assume that if they are spending time tending to the ill person’s illness, they are there for the dying person. I watched it with my father. I watched him go from being a respected man to a man who was largely invisible in a care center. The care center was a good one, but his illness became all that mattered.

No matter when death of a loved one occurs, there is absolutely no preparation for the flood of feelings that come next. I still cannot, cannot think of the shock of the notification, standing with my children as everyone honed in on my family, or those awful autopsy photos. My breath catches. It is more than what it looks like on the surface.

Imagine for a second a family of military children (four out of five) standing waiting to see their father’s body hit American soil. They were grieving as those grieve with no preparation for the death. There they stood with runny noses, tears that continuously leaked from their eyes, yet they had to render proper military respects and courtesies. It shattered my already broken heart. That singular memory brought me to where I am now. I wanted someone who understood and someone who had been though it to walk with me during those first moments when I was all alone. I didn’t want platitudes or people telling me to trust God or telling me that Phil was in a better place. I just wanted someone to sit with me (okay, walk with me).

My life has changed and I have surely become a better version of the woman I once was, but this class is bringing me back to my father’s illness, what I lost when I didn’t get to say goodbye to Phil, and how much my life has changed since then. Sometimes choosing to embrace the pain can make us just a little bit stronger and a little readier to walk with others. Kind of like a marathon where a runner runs one step at a time, one mile at a time, one race at a time to the finish line, I must stay the course and remember to breathe though the pain to take back my finish line.

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