Monday, November 19, 2012
The Church Pew
I'm taking an online grief class, and part of the focus of the class is to put together a collection of memories and pieces of information about the loved one who went on ahead. We have been given a list of fill-in-the-blank style questions to help in the information gathering process; the list includes things like favorite color, favorite subject in school, first job, hobbies, and words of wisdom. Some of it is easy for me to complete, some of it is hard to remember or to narrow down, and some of it I don't know.
It's the latter that really upsets me; it makes me think about just how sad it is that many of my dad's stories died along with him. Luckily, my mom and my siblings can fill in some of the information that I don't know, but, when they have exhausted their repertoire, that's all there is. And that hurts in a way that I didn't know existed before.
When my dad was in the hospital waiting for the surgery that resulted in his being officially diagnosed with cancer, he was very talkative, around the clock. Some of what he spoke about were things he was worried about, mainly my mom and his mom. He chatted about what he hoped to be able to do when he got out of the hospital. He asked about each of his grandchildren and said he could hardly wait to see them again. In between these conversations, though, he said a few things that were out of the blue and some that were out of context and maybe even out of the realm of what we could understand. One of those things he said was that he could see his dad, who had passed away years before, and a man whom he said was his "first preacher" from when he was a little boy and whom he said had a last name of Whitehead. According to my dad, he could see both of these men sitting at the end of a church pew. He didn't seem to know what they were doing or what else was going on in that scene, but it did seem to leave him a little unsettled.
Fast forward about 7 months later, after my dad and then his mom (my grandmother) both had gone on ahead, and my extended family on my dad's side had gathered for a memorial service for my grandmother in her hometown in Alabama, which is where my dad grew up. I asked several of the people who had known my dad as a child, including his brother, if they remembered a preacher by the name of Whitehead, and they all said they did not recognize the name. The story remains a mystery, and the fact that it probably always will bothers me, a lot. I wish I could hold onto every bit of my dad that ever was, every memory and every fact, even those that I didn't know yet. I guess there is a kind of grief for the loss of those things that comes along with the grief of the loss of a loved one, too, yet another thing that I wish I didn't have to know.