My father died this week. I received the news from my brother on Monday morning. He had tried to text me in the middle of the night, closer to the time of my father’s death, but for some reason the text didn’t get through. And so my week began with the news that a man whom I respected, emulated, loved… had died.
I can’t say that it came as a shock. My dad had been ailing for a long time, victim to Alzheimer’s. I put on a brave face, stiffened my jaw, and got about the business of helping my siblings make all the decisions and plans necessary when the cornerstone of one’s family is removed and the family must somehow remain standing.
As the priest in the family, it was left to me to work with the clergy and staff of my parent’s church and plan out the funeral liturgy. For most of Monday, emails poured into my inbox, texts made my phone ding every few minutes, phone calls were incessant. I can’t actually remember if I said my prayers on Monday, but I don’t think I did. In the zombie busyness of my day, on the very day that my father died, this priest forgot to say his prayers. Wow.
I’m a pretty active guy, but I spent most of Monday alone, in my office, in my chair, in my grief. I took a break to feed my cats and to walk the dog; that was about the extent of moving my body. It wasn’t until 8pm that I realized I hadn’t really eaten anything all day. Surprisingly, I wasn’t hungry. And although I had moved my body so little all day long, I was exhausted; too exhausted to cook. I ordered a Domino’s pizza: the deal of the day, a large pizza with one topping for $7.99. I chose pepperoni.
I’m not sure what grief is supposed to look like. As I’ve walked alongside others in their grief, it has taken on all shapes and forms and hues and tones.
I’m not sure what grief is supposed to look like, but for me, it looks like a priest
forgetful of his prayers,
consuming three-fourths of $7.99 pizza.
As I write this, it’s Wednesday night, and I’m doing a bit better. I’ve been able to get some things done in the last couple of days. I’ve been eating better too. But I’m still really sad, and I’m not sure that sadness will go away anytime soon. I’m not sure I want it to.
Life is a mixed deal, isn’t it? Light and dark, abundance and scarcity, joy and grief, life and death… all blended together. And somehow, the love of God, too, is in the mix. And somehow, too, despite the pain and loss and emptiness, it all seems as a gift. Even in the deep darkness of my grief, somehow I feel upheld, somehow I feel even loved. Somehow, even in the midst of my grief, life seems worthwhile.
Tomorrow is a new day; the fourth one of my life without my dad. No doubt, my grief will still be close, but there’s a peace as well. I believe that peace is a God-given thing. And instead of leftover pizza for breakfast, I think I’ll have a grapefruit.