Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The truths we learn in the end

In the days and weeks after my father died, there were these moments of clarity. They came without warning, without rhyme or reason. They just came. 

When they did, there was this sudden and instantaneous realization about something profound in my life. About some experience that had occurred, about something I had always believed, about something I never understood until that moment when it all came into clear focus.

And when it did it was so overwhelming, so obvious, that I wondered how it was that I hadn't seen it before. 

Except that there was no way that I could have. 

I wasn't equipped with the same life experiences before that moment. 

Perhaps there were even moments before that one where the truth was shown to me and I hadn't seen it, maybe because I couldn't yet. Maybe because it wouldn't have made sense yet. Maybe because there was no way that I could have understood it in the place I was in then.

I don't know what this all means really.

Losing a parent is one of the most life-altering experiences, even if it doesn't actually change all that much as far as your day to day life goes. It is life altering because so much of what defines us is the fact that we are the child of someone, even when we are adults. When we aren't anymore, it changes things. It changes them more than I anticipated.

Losing them both now, even more so.

I wrote about this phenomenon a little bit after my father died. I've discussed it at length with some of my friends, the members of this formerly parented adults trying to make sense of it all club that we've been forced to join against our will.

It was different with my father when he died, it all was. But there are so many parallels in ways that I have to wonder what they mean. Do they mean anything? Am I just reaching to find some connection because I want so badly for it to exist? 

There are no answers, obviously. Just questions.

Death has a way of answering some questions with definiteness, but it asks far more that can never be answered.

I know this.

Both of my parents were officially on hospice for the same length of time, though in vastly different circumstances. They both died on a Thursday. 

Many of the things that happened the day he went happened the day she did. 

Even though I was with him and I was over a thousand miles away from her when she took her last breath. Even then.

I can't explain it.

It doesn't make sense.

Maybe it isn't supposed to.

And that is one of the lessons I have learned this time around, one of the things that has become clearer in the past five days.

Maybe things just aren't supposed to make sense. Maybe I will never understand the things that happened, but maybe I'm not supposed to. Maybe what I've been taught by all of this is that I need to make peace with the unknowns in life. 

The other lesson that has come to me in these moments of clarity is that we can never really ever know what someone else is facing. We can never know their struggles, their situations, their internal battles, the reasons they do what they do. The only information we ever have is what we see, what we hear. If that information isn't first hand, it's hardly reliable at all. Even if it is first hand, it's never the full picture because it can't be, simply for the fact that we are not them and they are not us.

We can never really know.

In accepting this truth, in acknowledging the fact that our perception is far more limited than we ever thought it to be, there has to come compassion. I think it's required of us to be more patient, more understanding, more loving, more tolerant, more forgiving of others once we realize that we'll never ever know what we think we do, what we should. It requires us to trust one another more, give one another the benefit of the doubt, have more faith in others, believe that they are doing the right thing in that moment for the right reasons, even if we don't understand, especially if we don't understand.

Our parents, they never stop teaching us these lessons, even when they aren't actually here anymore. Maybe they tried. Maybe we just didn't hear them before. Maybe we listen more now. 

Maybe it doesn't make sense, but maybe it isn't supposed to.


  1. "You never really understand a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." ~Atticus Finch

    A great lesson that is hard to practice because when we need it most we are knee deep in our own muck.

    My father was essentially dying most of my life. When he died I was in my 30's. I mourned but I also had feelings of "it's about damn time." That's not coldness, just the reality of the situation. He was a good man with a body that betrayed him far too soon.

    1. Atticus is my all time favorite character. Thank you for this. xo

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Clarity comes at the strangest times.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss.

    The older I get the more I realize how little I do understand. Death and life are complicated. People are complicated. Sometimes we just have to accept without understanding. That is always much easier to say than to do. I am glad you have found some clarity...hold on to it!


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