Last night a friend’s father died. The family took turns sitting at his bedside for six long days and nights. But no one was there when he breathed his last breath. Out-of-town family had gone home. Others needed to connect with their families and have a good night’s sleep. So “Frank” died alone.
I have a close friend who was Hospice nurse for years. She said once that people die the way they live.
Actually, I don’t think that’s true and my years as a hospital chaplain have borne that out. “Frank” had disconnected with his family years ago. His third marriage made sure of that. He had children by the first two marriages and was unfaithful to the second wife (my friend’s mother). He wasn’t there for his children except to provide for them financially. And yet they were there for them.
“Frank” was a character. He was from a different country with a broken accent to match. He was one of those people you couldn’t help but like at first but that liking tarnished as one got to know him better. Than it was a matter of pretending he was that charming person you had first met and didn’t know anything about. If you gave thought to how he treated his family, you wouldn’t speak to him. But for that very reason, his family, you didn’t shun him and pretended, as did they, that he really was that nice.
His children were there for him.
Why do families react the way they do, especially splintered ones? It’s not the least bit complicated.
We grieve even the most unhealthy relationships because, despite our protestations otherwise, we haven’t given up hope. We’re still clinging to the idea that our loved one will suddenly say and do all the things they failed to say and do while they were able to. We think that somehow they’re going to rally those last few days and in one glorious “hollywood movie” moment, everything will change. They will sincerely apologize and and all will be forgiven.
That’s what my friend’s family did. When death finally slams the door shut any reconciliation, we are devastated.
Tears can be therapeutic if they’re authentic. No one has to know whether our tears are tears of remorse, of things lost, or tears of anger. As long as we know what that they are, they are healing.
When hope is gone, we are faced with what we are going to do with our memories. How are we going to reconcile it all? How are we going to face knowing we will never have the opportunity to make it right?
Thank goodness my friend had some alone time with his father and was able to say what he needed to say in the hopes that there was enough consciousness left for the words to be heard.
Hurting people cling to hope much like a drowning person clings to a life raft. There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. Hope is all we have sometime. When that hope is gone, our grief takes over. Now we cling to the fact that maybe we had it all wrong.
Maybe the love we sought was there all the time. Maybe our loved one, because of their own past, was incapable of letting us know. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it diminishes it.
If you’ve recently lost someone and you are wishing things had been different, cling to a new kind of hope. A hope that says you can leave behind a better legacy. A hope that says what you felt or didn’t feel doesn’t have to define you now.
Changing the present is a good antidote for the past.
God bless and I hope you have a good day.