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Grief Unburied
April 1rst is the anniversary of my father’s passing. Not a very good April fool’s joke. I still remember the phone call in the early hours of the morning, four years ago. A very shaky voiced Mom called to tell me that Dad, who’d been fighting a very nasty stomach flu for several days, had woke her in the night. She thought he was in need of more assistance from his sickness, only to find him having a stroke. By the time she got back with the phone and 9-1-1 operator in hand, he was no longer breathing. He was 83 years old. He’d had a tough winter, but in retrospect it was a rich one. Surviving a heart attack in November, the family rallied. When he returned home, we all sensed this might be one of his last Christmases. My sister, her daughter and another niece flew home from B.C. “ a rare treat. We gathered and took lots of family photos. The day felt like a gift we should cherish. Hugs were given, love was spoken. Then we were blessed again, Easter fell in March that year. Most of my siblings, their grown kids and young children landed back at the homestead, something that rarely happened. The weather was unseasonably pleasant and we played football in the back yard. Again lots of fun and photos- another gift “ and then he was gone. Oddly enough, although I miss my father, I felt peaceful about his passing. He had lived a good, long life. His body was just beginning to fail him and he’d developed Parkinson’s. In some ways it felt like a blessing he’d been spared a long and drawn out parting. I carried no regrets relationally and although my mother would never fully recover from his death, she was a strong, social and spiritual woman with great supports and connections.  Sometimes, I feel guilty that I don’t think of him more or feel sadder than I do. We loved each other, but he was a quiet man who lived more in the background of our lives. So, I guess he left less obvious gaping holes in the events of my everyday life than my mother has. But, when I do miss him “ like right now “ it washes over me like an icy cold wave. Anticipating the April 1 anniversary was part of it, but something else triggered it too. Tonight we watched a newscast of a woman who'd performed CPR on her husband while the 9-1-1 operator walked her through the process, saving his life. It reminded me the same thing happened to my mother four long years ago. My poor mother must have been struck with absolute terror as she leaned over Dad following the instructions of the dispatcher. Just hearing the play back of the 9-1-1 call on the news brought it back to me with full force. Grief is a funny thing. You go along feeling fine. You think you’ve dealt with your pain. It is processed in its proper place. Then one little trigger has you crying uncontrollably- shocking you and the people around you. I never expected grief to feel so much like fear, knocking me over from out of the blue. I felt a similar grief last week preparing my talk for the “Behaviour Support Ontario” meeting. Going back into the deep dark corners of the memories I had buried, only to discover I had buried them alive. But I am learning to let myself be sad, to cry, to grieve and to experience loss, rather than shove and shame away my feelings as inappropriate. I am learning that feelings don't have to be rational to be real but most of all, that the pangs of grief are side effects of loving deeply and being loved in return. Dedicated to my father: Kenneth John Rennick Born: June 16, 1924, Died: April 1, 2008 ~ I love you Dad!
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