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Tag Archives: mourning

found poem: Word

found poem: our goodbyes

found poem: between

found poem: In grief

found poem: during

found poem: When

found poem: bones

found poem: morning

found poem: Summoned

the entire mourning…

Les at 80
My father at 86 was strong and solid as ever, still carving, still reading, still making toys, and still taking care of my mother as she slipped inexorably into the slow twist of dementia. In spite of her own decline, Dorothy was able to nag him about his ‘little cough,’ which led him to tests of increasing degrees of unpleasantness and then to a horrible diagnosis: lung cancer.

I had accompanied him to these appointments and tests, had heard for myself the words from the doctor’s mouth, had sat with my father as he attempted to shape this into something my mother could grasp. She was appropriately solemn, but it was never clear to me how much she understood of his illness, his treatment or, six months later, his death.

It was a Friday, that day we sat together at their kitchen table, where we and they had shared so many thousands of meals. On Saturday, my friend would be married in a lavish hotel ceremony and I was to be a member of the bridal party. The wedding was 120 miles away, accompanied by various pre- and post- parties, an overnight in a motel and the drive to and from.

My father insisted that I must go. We talked about it. There really was nothing I could do for them, he said. They had to absorb this new information and we would begin the next phase together on Monday. His only request was that I refrain, for the moment, from telling anyone. I must go.

So I went. I wanted to go, to be there for my friend, but I was entirely unprepared for the tsunami of grief that struck me the moment I left my parents’ house. Packing for the trip, driving, sitting alone in the bleak motel room, I wept uncontrollably. Whatever might happen, whatever treatments or reprieves might be in store, my heart was not filled with hope. Without knowing, I knew.

Bleary, smiling tight-jawed and silent, I went to the parties and stood up for my friend in my unflattering dark blue dress and dyed-to-match shoes. My aunt and uncle — whom I dearly loved, who did not know this awful news about their favorite cousin — were there, but I could not talk with them. I knew that if my uncle wrapped me in his fierce hug I would lose my resolve. I tried not to look anyone in the eye, sat for a long time in the restroom, then in a quiet corner of the hotel’s garden. As soon as I could, I escaped and began the tearful drive home.

My father’s daughter, I had believed in stoicism. Now, whatever was in store, I would need to be strong, present, supportive.

Unfair as it was to the bride, it was a necessary weekend of grief. Until long after my father was gone, and even for some time after my mother died, six years later, I thought of that weekend as “the entire mourning” for my father. But of course I was wrong about that.

I never asked to see photos of the wedding.

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