Saturday, December 31, 2011
A New Year
The last day of 2011. Looking backward, looking forward: isn’t that what we all do on New Year’s Eve?
New Year’s Day is typically a day of new beginnings, of looking forward to things that will change and to which we must adjust whether we want to or not.
For me, looking backward pulls in a memory of this day last year, the day we brought my dad home from the hospital on hospice. That was the new beginning for my family, but it was also an ending for us, an in-your-face reminder that life and death are not tidy or predictable, despite the best laid plans, logic, or effort. Obviously, there are lessons of life, love, grief, and much more that came from the journey my family took, many of which we are still in the midst, a shifting of roles, of perspective, a making of history that we did not see coming and that we were not sure we could withstand.
But withstand it we did, together, and we will continue to struggle through it as the process of adjusting and grieving continues. When we brought Dad home, I knew I wouldn’t ever be able to have life as it was before, and yet I had no idea how it would be going forward. This day as I remember it last year was the most physically and emotionally draining day I’d ever experienced. It was the first day that I felt it was acceptable not to have a specific plan. Maybe that was the exhaustion talking, maybe it was the beginning of some kind of acceptance, a stage of grief with which I am still struggling.
Resolutions? I’m not sure it matters. I guess it’s good to have a goal, but I have learned first-hand that what is going to happen, happens, regardless of the Plan. Out of respect for my dad and for my family, in the upcoming year I will try to be even more grateful, more aware of the beauty and of the momentousness of not only the big moments but also of the little ones, more generous, and (this one’s for you, Dad) always to err on the side of kindness. To have, as my friend Susan quoted from the bumper sticker she saw recently, wag more, bark less!
In a way, it saddens me to see 2011 come to a close; it marks too much time since I’ve last heard my dad’s voice or held his hand. A year ago, I could not have anticipated what would unfold during this calendar year. A year ago, I could not have predicted the range of emotions and the power of the grief that I would encounter. A year ago, I was just trying to get through to the next hour, the next day, with my dad.