on death, you know, that thing we don’t talk about

I have had every intention of writing here over the last few days but I just haven’t been able to get the words down. You see, Sunday was the first anniversary of my father’s passing. It just really sucks to write about so I’ve been avoiding this space. Of course, there’s no way to avoid actually thinking. I can’t shut off my brain as easily as I can my computer.

It is easy enough not to talk about it though. Most people don’t really want to discuss death and dying. It’s too messy, too hurtful. It hits too close to the heart, so we gloss over it. I’m fine, I’m fine, we all say, rather than speak the truth, that a piece of you is missing, gone forever. We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? So why the silence? It’s because hearing about someone else’s pain makes us think of our own. A grandparent or parent lost, or some other dearly loved one. Avoid. Avoid. Mortality bites.

I believe would all rather think of death in generic terms. Sad events happening in far off places are easier to cry over than cancer in the house. I can bawl at a sappy scene in a movie but real life hospital rooms and funeral parlors just make me numb. I can only assume I’m not alone in doing that since no one actually speaks of such things.

Well, at this moment I’d like to speak of my father but it’s easier to write it here than to say any of it aloud. Who was he? A father of seven, he was Pop to us. A husband of 50 years, yes, they made it to 50 last August, with three-ish months to spare. Grandfather of 17, soon to be 18, and with them Pop became Pepere. Catholic, always and forever. Engineer, artist extraordinaire, fixer of all things. He and flawed and kind and wonderful. I say all of this because these words describe him, but yet he was so much more than a few nouns and adjectives. He was the sum of years of 77 years of life, and love, and light.

I can’t look at a sunset and not imagine him painting it. I can’t pick up the phone and not yearn to call him. I can’t go to their house without glancing at his chair, expecting to see him reading, or well, snoring there. I can’t hold a broken electrical anything and not laugh at how he would have stashed it away for parts. I can’t help but for wish we’d had more time with him, for myself, and for my son. I can’t stand it, no, I hate it that he’s dead. Dammit.


I hope you don’t think I’m crazy or depressed. (Well maybe a little crazy but not so much certifiably.) Sometimes grief just looks like this. It ebbs and it flows like the tides, and it’s not a bad thing to let it loose once in awhile.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, you could do me a favor; don’t tell me how sorry you are. I know you’re sorry. You can’t read this kind of a brain dump and not feel some sadness. Instead, I’d rather you tell me a little something about someone you’ve loved, and and miss, and hardly ever talk about. Even though it hurts. Writing it down helps, I swear.

In return, I’ll show you one of my father’s paintings, one of my favorites:

and one of my recent photos:

Sunsets. It’s a family thing.


12 Responses to “on death, you know, that thing we don’t talk about”

  1. Anne on December 8th, 2011 7:42 pm

    OK, then. I have been very lucky in that I haven’t yet had the experience of losing someone that close to me. But I have one that I can’t tell anyone out loud because I will cry.

    My grandmother died of cancer when I was seven. I don’t have many clear memories of her, but there was one day (it must have been near the end) when I was at her house and she said that she loved me.

    Because I am a brat, I said, “I know that. You always say that. Why do you always say that?”

    She replied,very slowly: “Because I want you to remember for the rest of your life.”

    Holy God, have I hung on to that one. Mostly, I think that if I hadn’t asked the question and gotten the answer, I probably _wouldn’t_ remember. And as an adult, I understand that in the face of her death, that was exactly her fear.

    When I see her again, in another life, I owe my grandmother an apology.

  2. Amira on December 8th, 2011 8:04 pm

    I will tell you that this is a beautiful post and I’m glad you got it out. In regard to your request though, I’ve had a few people pass away in my family, but they were ones living “back home” in Ethiopian and that I never really knew. So I guess, in a way, I’ve been sort of “fortunate” in that sense, but seeing my parents age does make me think of death and what it will be like when the time comes.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and stories of your father with us.

  3. Nicole on December 8th, 2011 8:05 pm

    One of the most influential people of my life is my fathers mother, my MawMaw. Everything good about me, I learned from her: generosity, kindness, loving, tenderness. She has been gone for almost four years, but I lost her to Alzheimer’s long before. I ache that my children never knew her the way I did. My heart breaks that she never got to meet Joey. I feel cheated that she is no longer here and a part of my life. And I am angry that she was such a wonderful person and such a bad thing happened to her, when there are so many bad people in the world. Where is the balance in the universe.

    She lives on in me. I love cooking using her recipes, their smells remind me of her home. And I look forward to being the grandmother she was to me, to my children’s children one day. If there is a heaven, she is surely there. And if people are selected to be guardian angles, she is surely has her wings.

  4. Amy on December 8th, 2011 9:42 pm

    I miss my friend Keegan, one year ago today actually he told us that he had cancer. He died in July and I miss him so much. He made me laugh and I miss his smile. He would always say things like “I’m awesome” in a silly way. My heart aches for my friend who he planned to marry once he was well.

  5. Becky Mochaface on December 8th, 2011 10:07 pm

    Whenever I came home from college, I would go over to my grandmother’s to visit and she would make me lunch. Always the same. Homemade corndogs (hers were the best) and apple pie. My favorites.

  6. Magpie on December 8th, 2011 10:44 pm

    My grandfather painted. But no sunsets, that I know of.

  7. Teresa on December 9th, 2011 7:22 am

    This will be my 4th Christmas without Grace. For some reason it seems harder this year so thanks for the chance to write down some of my thoughts and emotions. You are right…nobody wants to talk about it. Nobody wants to see me cry anymore…except for my husband and my girls. They, too, feel the pain of losing their sister at the tender age of 9. It hits us all differently and at different times, but we all experience that sadness that comes from the hole in our heart on occasion. I try to hide it because I don’t want to make them sad when they are not, but who am I kidding. Won’t we always be a little sad that our house is missing a child? An innocent little girl who was naive, a little flakey and who LOVED her animals, especially horses! Oh, how I long to see her walking around with her stuffed “Princess” horse making its legs move as only she could, oblivious to everyone else and everything around her. She would have been 13 this Christmas but something tells me that she still would have believed in Santa, would be anxiously awaiting the first snowflake to fall, and would probably be trying to dress up our new cat, Mac, and prancing him around the house like a reindeer.

    The pain is very real right now. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. But, thanks for the chance to cry into my computer screen. (At least it doesn’t care.)

  8. moonspun on December 10th, 2011 8:06 pm

    Wow, what a lovely sunset painting by your dad and photo by you!
    Sometimes I look at my amazing 11 year old daughter and feel this stab of hurt that my grandmothers, both of whom died 20 years ago, never got to know her. They would have loved her. Especially my nana. She would have seen the magical, creative child that I see. My nana, who scratched my back and sang “bushel and a peck” in my ear when I was young. At our holiday party today my daughter wore a bracelet that was belonged to my nana and was given to me after her death because I used to play with it when I visited her. I like that sense of history. Those connections are important. Just as the stories you’ll tell your son about his grandfather.

  9. Phil on December 10th, 2011 10:16 pm

    Thank you, sis.

  10. Carolyn on December 11th, 2011 7:56 am

    I went to mass with Mom on the anniversary and as it started, the microphones crackled like crazy. Mom and I just glanced at each other…..

  11. Angella on December 16th, 2011 11:43 am

    So, so sorry for your loss. We haven’t lost anyone close to us, but it’s bound to happen.

    I love the painting and your photo. Beautiful.

  12. sweetney on December 16th, 2011 12:54 pm

    Beautiful painting. Beautiful post.

    So sorry about your Dad, lady. That’s so hard. Peace to you.

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