Giving Thanks, Hurting and Healing

Try not to resist the changes that come your way.  Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
– Rumi

Ten Things of Thankful

Friday 13th September:

Those of you who’ve read any of my recent posts on either of my blogs will know why I haven’t been posting for the Ten Things of Thankful Blog Hop lately. So for those of you who only read my TToT posts: my absence at this hop is not because I’ve stopped feeling thankful, but because my father died on the 20th of August and I simply didn’t have the time or opportunity to write for the hop.

But while I’ve been away I did write about thankfulness. The funeral service we held for my father was a  service of thanksgiving for his life. To name it that was my mother’s choice, and it was also exactly what I would have chosen. Before she decided on this, I had already decided that I wanted to give thanks for his life at the service, that I wanted to share with the congregation the deep gratitude our family felt for him and for the people around us who were so supportive and kind during his illness and after his death.

Really, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say I made a decision to speak at the service , I just knew I had to do it, that it felt so utterly important to me, and that somehow I knew that I’d get through it. The last Ten Things of Thankful post I wrote was nine days before my father died, and was about how thankful I felt for him. A paragraph of what I wrote in that post formed the beginning of what I said at his funeral. I am thankful that my sisters, our mother and our daughters all suggested things to include in our thanksgiving eulogy. I think that helped me to do it. Truly, I’ll never know for sure, but I am thankful for whatever it was that gave me the strength to stand up and speak to 150 people. I am thankful for the neighbour who helped me practice and gave me tips on how to slow down when I spoke too fast. I am thankful that my husband agreed to be ready to take over if I couldn’t do it, and that he trusted that I could.

I am not thankful that my father has died. I miss him. While you might say I could be thankful that at least he isn’t suffering any more, that feels hollow to me, as if I am trying to “be positive.” In my experience it suppresses the emotions that need to be felt and released for us to heal. Positive is part of life, it’s not all there is. So when I feel a wave of deep sadness welling up inside me, I don’t try to stop it with happy thoughts. Instead, more often than not, I allow the feeling, and even welcome it. And when I do this, the feeling dissolves, and the happier memories return without any effort on my part. I’m very thankful that I learned to allow my feelings in this way. I use the Sedona Method , and I’m very thankful for it – and I’m also aware there are other ways to allow and release feelings in this way.

I am not thankful that my father had cancer. It was horrible to see my Dad in pain, to see his backbone broken and bent because of the disease. It was not a pleasant way for  his life to end. Yet, I am thankful that the bouts of chemotherapy he had worked well enough for him to have several remissions.

I am thankful to have witnessed his calm acceptance in the days close to his  death. It would be a lie to say he calmly accepted the cancer. He didn’t. What’s truer is that he went through a process of acceptance. Early in August, I sat with him during the admissions procedure to hospital. He had a chest infection; we knew infections were often an aspect of myeloma, the cancer he had. It was the first serious infection he’d had, but for some people they are the main symptom, including for a friend of mine who died of myeloma two years ago. As we waited between the various tests, my father and I spoke about many things. One of the things he spoke about was death. Even though he wanted to go on living, he had no fear of death. At his funeral the minister also spoke about this, about how my father had said that you can’t know what lies before you, what death brings, but you just have to trust. I am thankful that Dad had that trust. It makes his death so much easier to bear.

I’m thankful that last year I read Dying To Be Me, Anita Moorjani’s amazing account of her battle with cancer and near-death experience, after which she was cancer free. After reading that and other accounts of NDEs, I am more able to feel that trust my father spoke about.

I am thankful that my family accepted each other’s grief as we felt it. Sometimes there were three or four of us sitting at a meal with tears streaming down our faces, but just as often the things that triggered one of us did not trigger others. So when someone needed a hug we gave it, when someone needed to be alone we allowed that too. I am thankful for the memory of a sister’s arm around me as we watched Dad’s coffin being lowered into his grave. I am equally thankful for the memory of my mother’s arms reaching out to me because she needed comfort as we prepared a meal.

I am thankful for tears. They heal.

And I’m thankful that sometimes, even in the first few days after my father’s passing, as often as there were tears there was also laughter. That is how our father would want it to be, of that I’m sure.

Saturday 14th September:

I wrote most of this post yesterday. I’m glad I did. I am especially glad that I didn’t try to make myself feel thankful Dad isn’t suffering, but that I allowed the emotions I was feeling at the time. This is what heals us: trusting the process. This morning I woke up thinking about Dad, and I realised how thankful I feel that, right to the very last day of his life, he was able to get out of bed and get dressed. Just two days before, my sister took him out for a drive and to a café, and just one day before he was singing with the nurses. He didn’t fear death, but early in the illness he told me he feared being useless. And he feared pain, he feared not being able to cope with it. (I probably don’t need to tell you that he did cope – amazingly.)

And so, I am thankful that he was spared the slow death he didn’t want, that feeling of being useless. Though I also think he would never have been useless even if he had lain in bed for months. He inspired, and someone so inspiring is not, can never be, useless. One of my sisters was with our Dad to the end, and afterwards a nurse told her that she and her colleagues had got too fond of him – he was in hospital for all of 15 days. A man who was a patient in the same room for a day or so came back after his discharge to visit Dad. (They’d never met before.)

I am very grateful for the lesson this gives me. Our society measures worth in terms of money or what people can do. Because of this we devalue the very young and the very old. I’ve devalued myself too because I’ve earned very little money over the years our children have been growing up, and relied on my husband’s income to support us. But my father is proof that what we are worth can’t be measured in terms of money. He touched lives, and he learned from others. Even in the last days of his life he was giving and receiving the precious gift of love.

 

Amazing Grace

Finally, this video is of Amazing Grace, one of my father’s favourite songs and one we sang at the service of thanksgiving for his life. Although I don’t think he ever saw this particular version I feel sure he would have loved it, and like me I’m sure he would have admired this little girl who is singing after losing her mother to cancer. I am thankful to her for her bravery in singing this song.

 

 

Comments

  1. A stunningly beautiful, heartrending post, Yvonne. I feel very privileged and honoured that you shared it on our hop. Your Dad sounds like he was a truly inspiring, wonderful soul, and appears to have touched people very deeply. Some people just have that quality of getting under your skin and making you want to be around them – to read your account, I’d say he had that quality in spadefuls.

    I’m thankful for your honesty, too, as you go through this grieving process, and your attitude of letting it happen, embracing the emotions, embracing the people who matter and who are helping you through.

    Much love to you, and may your father’s spirit live on in you.

    1. Author

      Lizzi, thank you. I think you are right, my Dad did have that quality of getting “under your skin” – that’s a good way to put it. I think that he grew more like that the older he got, or maybe I just grew to appreciate him more as I got older!
      Thank you for such a lovely comment.

  2. Such a beautifully moving dedication to a loving father, Yvonne 🙂
    The love you all had for each other shines out so brightly that it will surely give hope to those who feel there is none.

    As a survivor myself, and having lost a sister to this, I’m so glad you’ve found a way to cope with the emotions engendered by your loss.

    1. Author

      Katy, thank you for such a lovely commment. It is nice to think this could give hope to others.

      I am sorry that you lost a sister to cancer and have had it yourself. I hope your health stays good now.

    1. Author

      Mary, I’m sorry you didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t really either because although my Dad had cancer we had been told he had about 3 – 6 months left and everyone, including the lovely doctors and nurses looking after him, were taken by surprise. He was scheduled to go home the day he died. But in a way we had been saying goodbye for several weeks, with the conversations we had, so I do feel very fortunate.

      I do hope you have managed to find peace, and if you haven’t yet, I recommend Anita Moorjani’s book. It helped me hugely.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Oh, Yvonne, this is absolutely beautiful. I never thought about the phrase so often used, “at least he isn’t suffering” in quite that way. You are right, and very wise to let the emotions just be what they are.
    A thankful funeral is a great way to honor a beloved, wonderful soul. It sounds like your father was just such a man.
    I am so sorry for your loss, but I am grateful that you wrote this and linked it up with us. I was crying through it, thinking of my own dad as well as yours.

    1. Author

      Christine, thank you. I am slightly stunned by the comments on this post, yours included, and am finding it a challenge to reply. I wondered if maybe it was too personal, but I guess we all have these feelings about those we love – as you’ve shown by writing how you were thinking about your own dad.

      And yes, my father was a beloved, wonderful soul. Thank you.

  4. What a beautiful post . So many really poignant statements but I love that positive is “part of ” your life… There is much to be said for going through and not covering the pain of loss or anything else. Thankful for another’s life is the biggest gift to them and you… hoping you find continued peace. Zoe

    1. Author

      Zoe, that’s exactly it – we need to go through the pain to heal it. I like that you used the word “covering,” because trying to avoid paint with “positive thinking” is like covering over a wound without cleaning it first.

      Thank you very much for adding to what I wrote, and for your lovely wishes and sentiments.

  5. Yvonne, a wonderful tribute to dad, indeed, and I am so sorry for your loss. You shared beautifully in spite of what must be a very difficult moment….hugs to you!

  6. You wrote a beautiful post, filled with truth. I can feel your peace through the sorrow. May you always have that comfort.

    1. Author

      Kristi, I am so glad of your comment. I’ve been thinking about it on and off since I read it. You are right that I do feel peace through the sorrow – so often we think it has to be one or the other of those, but it is possible to feel both. Thank you.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss, Yvonne. You’ve told the story so beautifully. I would so much rather people celebrated my life than mourned it, and it appears your family did just that with your father.

    1. Author

      Dyanne, thank you. My family definitely celebrated my father’s life, and we grieved too, and overall the celebration is what wins out, I’d say! I feel so fortunate to have had such precious time with him towards the end of his life.

  8. Oh, what a heartfelt tribute. I especially liked that you said that it wasn’t so much that you wanted to speak, but felt you needed to. We lost a dear friend several years ago. I don’t particularly like to speak in public, but I knew I’d always regret it if I didn’t say something. Anything. But I knew I had to celebrate his life. I’m so glad you did this and incorporated things from the rest of the family too. I did lose my dad more recently and it is hard. I am glad my dad was spared a slow, painful death, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss him. You are going to miss your dad for years to come. My thoughts are with you and your family.

    P.S. If you have a story of post (this one is beautiful) you’d like to share a story with my followers/readers, I’m hosting (on Facebook) a link in comments of Share Your Story Sunday https://www.facebook.com/outoneear. I’d love you to leave a link if this interests you.

    1. Author

      Linda, thank you for your comment. I think you’ve summed up why I felt I had to speak at my dad’s funeral – I also knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. Thank you for sharing your feelings about your own father, and I think you are right I will miss him for years to come. I have a feeling that we can miss somebody and yet let go of the pain. Already it hurts less than it did, even though I miss him just as much and think about him several times each day.

      Thank you too for your offer to post a link on your Facebook page! That’s kind of you and I would love to.

  9. I remember reading the lovely tribute that you wrote to your dear father. He truly sounds like a wonderful man with a memorable life. I’m very sorry for your loss.
    I’m thankful that you have family and tears. They really do heal.

  10. I have only recently begun to post in the TToT group and have been really blessed by the experience. I am so sorry for the loss of your father. I am so moved by the beautiful words in this post and the honesty and grace with which you are mourning your father’s passing.

    It is obvious reading your words that he was a wonderful man and a precious gift to you–and your family and those he met. What a blessing to have a family like yours where you all can grieve and experience the love and support of one another and share the joy and pain together. And the tears…the healing tears. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Author

      Hello Joell, I’m glad you are enjoying the TToT experience! It is a nice way to meet people online as well as being therapy for us all!

      Thanks for your kind words about my father. He was wonderful, yes.

  11. I am so sorry that your father had to leave. I know that one day, you will say hello to him again. 🙂 It’s so hard to lose a parent – it’s obvious he was so special to you. I hope you continue to write about him: on the one hand, I know it’s a good process for healing and on the other hand, it’s so wonderful to read your tributes to him. Sending hugs and thoughts of healing. xo

    1. Author

      Cyndi, thanks. I did wonder before I posted this if people would have had enough of my posts about my father. I had already seen that’s not the case, but it is lovely to get your comment saying that it’s wonderful to read these my tributes. Thank you. And thank you for this so kind comment.

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