I’ve rarely felt the sting of death. As a tween my step-grandfather died and I cried ugly tears next to my step-cousin. But since then I’ve been relatively unscathed.
I’ve never been one to fear death, to worry much over it at all. In hindsight I realize this a symptom of youth, of independence. But life has a way of wounding you, softening you. Making you a curious combination of both callous and vulnerable.
I am reading Anne Lamott when it attacks me this time, the fear, the grief, the gut-stopping reality that my father will die. That his thick southern drawl will not always be a phone call away.
I struggle to halt the pain in my heart, the tears already sliding down my face.
One thing I know and fear in my life:
when my father dies it will break me.
For a time, at least. And occasionally I am briefly and prematurely consumed with this future.
My father is the one thing in my life that is wholly mine. My husband’s family surrounds me in a plethora of love, they are truly more than a girl from a broken home could ever hope for. And though they love me like their own, there is still a divide that whispers in my heart . . . they don’t really belong to you. They are borrowed family.
But my father is mine.
Other people love him, yes. He has brothers and nieces and even another daughter.
Other people love me, as well. I have brothers and cousins, and aunts who care for me dearly.
But my father – he is the rock. Just one thin layer above the Creator in my foundation.
And I worry about the crack that will be left when that layer is removed.
I am 29 years old and every year he seems to grow weaker. He injures easily, is prone to virus and flu, lives with chronic pain. And, perhaps most scarily – he’s uninsured. A victim of the blue-collar predicament.
I know, he knows, we all know, that when the cancer finally comes for him, if it hasn’t already, it will be nearly over by the time it is named.
So when he’s laid up on the couch for a week for mysterious reasons, or has fainting spells, or loses his appetite, we all refuse to make eye contact with the inevitable in the room.
My father is unlikely to grow to be an old man.
This reality waits for me.
And no amount of Christian platitude can take away it’s sting.