Somber Time For the Entire Family

Observant readers may have noticed our normal post-a-week cadence has been interrupted some of the time over the past few months. This typically happens when we are on an extended tour or cruise with poor or limited WiFi access or if we are particularly busy with other tasks or distractions.

In this case, it has been the latter. I have been quite busy and very distracted since returning from Paris because…

My Father Passed Away

Although I was quite effusive in my description of our time in Paris, I knew as we wound down our time in the City of Light, so too, time was winding down for my father. Having made it to his late nineties, his body and will to live were worn out.

He had more or less been waiting for my return from Paris to give in and I knew it. He had been distressed about his state of health and was anxious to discuss it. We met and came to terms with his desire. He was effectively seeking my permission to let go and I gave it to him.

Serenity Achieved

Immediately, his mood perked up. Serenity had come to us both. Absolved of further responsibility, he felt free to do as he pleased. We caught up on things and discussed family matters. I was relieved to see him in good spirits. He wasn’t at all afraid, rather, he embraced the release death would bring him.

Who My Father Was

My father wanted to be remembered as an Eagle Scout, an Army doctor, and an author, in addition to his work in a couple of charitable services and foundations. He meticulously maintained and updated his obituary for this very occasion. Dutifully, we published it in the local paper shortly after his passing. I suspect he would have objected had he known it cost $1500 to print, but I couldn’t deny completing this task, because it was very important to him.

His career spanning six decades in medical practice with my mother was equally weighted among his listed achievements. What he didn’t put in his obituary was the far-reaching impact he had on his community. I commonly meet people in my travels who know, love, and respect my parents for their care and skills as physicians. He may not have realized it or was too humble to admit it, but that is his true legacy.  We should all aspire to something similar.

Still, I Am Sometimes Distracted

My father passed away within a week of my return. My relief upon seeing his serenity became partially supplanted with a sense of loss. In a detached manner, I found it interesting to study the aspects of this feeling.

First, my patron, my security blanket, was gone. Even though I had picked up the mantle of looking after my family, my father was always there for support. I feel a little more exposed without him in my corner. I knew he would do whatever he could to help if I got in a jam.

Second, my friend was gone. We enjoyed sharing stories and experiences. I was not alone in this. My father was quite engaging. He could talk to anyone. I used to say he could have an interesting conversation with a doorknob. He was gifted that way.

Reflecting on these losses, I am periodically distracted from the task at hand. Sometimes, an event or object reminds me of him. Other times, it is just this vague sense of emptiness that clouds my thoughts, giving me pause for a brief while.

It’s My Grief

Sure, these are signs of processing grief and, to a lesser extent, related depression. I’m not an emotional person. I don’t know how that impacts the grief I experience or how I process the loss. Upon hearing of my father’s death, various friends and family members offered their condolences. Some reminisced and one suggested I reminisce as a method to process my grief.

While I appreciated the thoughts, I find reminiscing is at times too difficult. It is taking considerable effort to write this article, which necessarily causes me to go over some of my memories of him. The well-intentioned advice didn’t have its intended ameliorative effect. That’s why I always have difficulty expressing anything beyond condolences when others suffer a loss. Everyone’s grief is their own and how they best deal with it is personal, too.

The Trust Must Go On

Practically speaking, managing my parents’ estate has been another series of distractions. The task falls on me as my mother isn’t capable of taking on this task. My father and I thought we had things squared away, but the devil is in the details.

Accounts had to be changed, and documents needed to be notarized. All the while, I had to be mindful of having sufficient funds available to pay my mother’s bills. Even getting a death certificate, a prerequisite for many actions, is an involved process. We had to swiftly disposition some of his personal effects. We have had tremendous assistance with these tasks, but the process is time-consuming and requires attention.

Lessons Learned

I wish I had better knowledge of specific actions and documents I would need for estate management after my father died. It seemed every time I asked an attorney or financial professional about it, I got a short answer to the effect of “No big deal”. Maybe not to these people who handle it frequently, but this is my first rodeo and everything is harder and takes longer than I was led to believe, months in some cases.

In addition, I *really* wish I had video-interviewed my father about his life and his opinions and memories of events during his lifetime. Memories of his brother (whom I never met), for example. His impressions of FDR, Ike, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Watergate, etc. How had his views changed over time?  What a treasure a set of interviews would have been.

Final Thoughts

Please know that I’m alright. Really. My family seems to be alright, too. We had a long time to prepare mentally for this eventuality. It’s just never easy when the time comes.

I wanted to share this with those who have been following our journey over the years. We have had some wonderful and some very challenging events in that time. It’s all part of Living Chapter 2, in reality, not just in name.

How do you grieve?

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