My first experience with death was when my grandfather died in a car accident when I was 12. Death was a shock. It was raw. My brain couldn’t compute how a person was alive one moment, and gone in the next. I actively mourned for a year. I developed little rituals where I told myself when I completed the ritual, I would be released from my sadness. Simple rituals like plucking petals from a flower. The rituals didn’t work, but time did soothe the rawness of the grief.
My next experience with death came 7 years later, when I was in my second year of college. This time death came slower, with a diagnosis of cancer for my father who had a glioblastoma. Surgery and radiation were attempted, but there was no hope, and my father died that tragic, wasting death that cancer causes over about 6 months.
Sometimes I think of my grandfather and father, but especially my father, and wish they had lived to see what I have accomplished. You see while my grandfather and I had a special relationship, one where he wasn’t shy to express his affection for me, my father and I lacked a bond. I found him to be gruff and demanding. He found me to be lacking in respect. I did not think I missed a relationship with my dad. My life was otherwise full of loving connections with family members.
But as an adult, my mind sometimes wanders to him, and I wish he knew what I accomplished after he died. Because in adulthood, I believe I checked off most of the boxes he considered to be the symbols of success. From education to career to family. Dad would have admired all of those things. I feel an urge to get a message to him – look, Dad, I did good!
But still, I’m surprised it’s important to me.