Lucky Number 7

It’s been so long I forgot my own password.

The keyboard that once felt so familiar now feels foreign. Don’t get me wrong, I get plenty of quality time on this computer. In fact, that’s part of what has kept me away. When you spend your days staring at a screen or building websites for other people the last thing you want to do is plug away on your own.

I tried to talk myself out of it. I promised that I would do it tomorrow, or maybe the next day. That I really should vacuum or spend time with my husband or watch another episode of Game of Thrones or play with my dog or anything, anything, to keep from opening the door of my deepest and darkest place. But grief is funny like that. It demands to be felt, touched, heard, and seen.

It’s been 7 years since my dad died.

7 years. Lucky number 7. 7 years and also just yesterday. Every year is different. There have been big, bold, ugly years. There have been quiet, simple, and silent years. Years when it snuck up on me and years when it got right up in my face. There have been years when I laughed and joked my way through it and others when I knew people could hear the ache of my voice, a thin layer holding everything together, liable to break apart at any moment.

They say these things get better with time and in some ways they do. You develop this new sense of normal- everything that was turned upside down somehow seems rightside up. Despite your best efforts (or as a result of your worst fears) you move along because you have to. You move on because they would’ve wanted you to. You try to mine the depths of your memories to remember how he talked or smelled or said or taught you. You simply forget because you have to make room. Room for the good things, the best things, the way it feels to be truly alive.

And in some ways they’re much worse. Worse because everything becomes so normal that grief feels like whiplash. It grabs you and yanks you so hard backwards that everything starts to spin and where once you got used to the tightness now you feel as though you’re choking. It’s harder because you wonder what he would think of you now, or of your husband, or what it would be like to share a glass of wine together. You long for what could’ve been and what should’ve been and it hurts maybe even worse than it did the first time.

Every year something else dies too.

Usually it’s the death of a dream. The places you’ll never go, the conversations you’ll never have, the moments you’ll never share. But sometimes you lose something else along the way. Sometimes something good dies too- the bitterness, the sadness, the frustration, the devastation.

This year I can feel my anger slowly but surely starting to die. And it is almost as painful as the death itself.

For the longest time I was angry at just about everyone. Angry at my dad for becoming someone he wasn’t before he died. Angry at myself for the way I handled it. Angry at doctors and timing and even God himself.

But this year the very grief whose tentacles worm their way deep into my heart to take me back to those final days, that hospital room, those conversations, the same grief brought those memories into technicolor view.

Grief and time are giving me the best things they can offer: perspective.

For the first time instead of an angry young woman I see a scared little girl who wanted her best friend to be okay. I see a terrified man who didn’t know what was happening to him. I see a wife who’s afraid of losing the love of her life and her very life itself. I see doctors who are just as devastated as we were. I see things differently, as painful as it may be.

Anger had occupied so much of my heart that now, for the first time, there’s a place for something new to grow. Compassion is starting to take root. I can feel it, slow and wobbly, trying to break through and make room. Compassion for the girl who didn’t know what else to do, compassion for the father who must’ve been so scared, compassion for the mother who was trying her best and the brother who processed things differently.

Anger is easy, convenient, and maybe even justified. It is compassion that is leaving me completely undone.

And that is why I call it lucky number 7. As painful as it is, as brutal as it’s been to sit in my grief and experience those things all over again, I am starting to feel grateful for this grief. Grief is like a river, shaping and molding us over the years into something different, something better, something new.