Phantom Limb

Losing Dad is like losing a limb, I imagine. I've heard stories of amputees who feel like the limb is still there even after it's gone. That's how I feel right now; the house feels exactly the same, and we feel exactly the same, and we forget the loss momentarily during our daily rituals, until we are forced to admit he's gone and he's not coming back.

The limb itself will never be reattached. But I kind of like the Phantom Limb. It's like he's here, but not. He's part of the whole family unit we are a part of, and we just can't let go of him - not just yet.

This last week was a whirlwind. One week ago I lay down next to my father's dead body and tried to make him live again by my own will. I saw his head shake, my heart stopped for a moment, until I realized that it was my own sobs that shook the bed. It was the worst day of my life. Perhaps it's an inappropriate metaphor, but I felt like Simba trying to wake up Mufasa in The Lion King. That part of the movie always makes me cry, but I never actually knew what it would feel like to lose my dad. I just imagined the pain that Simba felt in that very moment, and how I would feel if I was in that very position. Its something I never wanted to live out - but here we are.

He didn't look dead. He just looked like he was sleeping. I didn't know he was dead until a few moments after we stepped into the hospital room - I wouldn't have known unless I overheard my mom, my aunt and the nurse talking. I didn't start crying right away. I felt panic and shock, and almost instinctively, I grabbed my little brother and held him the tightest I've ever held anyone in my life. I only remember feeling like I needed to protect him. We were all devastated, but a 13 year old's grief is something that needs to be handled carefully. This hug changed my life forever. I realized that I actually care about Cameron more deeply than I thought before - that I would do anything to make him hurt less, and that I may, after all, have it in me to be the older sister and protector than he always needed me to be.

I slept in my parents bed that night and watched The Fighter, because I couldn't go to sleep. The night before, my Dad was not having a good night in the hospital, so they told us to wait up and be together just in case. There are nights that you can tell you are going to remember for the rest of your life - the eve before something important happens. I felt it that whole night. I waited for what I knew was going to happen, somehow. I knew because throughout my Dad's illness I always had hope and was positive that he woud pull through and that Dad would always be around. But that night, despite my constant optimism, I felt that feeling of profundity that is usually absent from every other ordinary day. I remember distinctly thinking "this night is one of those nights. Take it all in." That's when I knew that soon I'd be writing this post, and observed every single heartbreaking detail. I suggested we watch something to lift our spirits. My Aunt quickly responded "yes! I was just thinking we should watch the Simpsons". My little brother owns all the seasons of the Simpsons, and has practically memorized every episode. He said: "I know exactly which one we should watch". He disappeared and came back shortly with the disc and popped it in. We watched it. The episode he chose, out of all the episodes that were available for our viewing is the one where Homer has a heart attack, almost dies, and has to have heart surgery to save his life. Now, my brother likes to act really tough, but this is when I realized that he is, after all, a little boy that more than anything wants his dad to live and be with him. Dad was our Homer. He entertained us as such, constantly. Cameron wanted Dad to recover like Homer - he wanted everything to be okay again like a 30 minute episode of the Simpsons. Gosh I wish psychology wasnt so tragic.

I slipped my feet into my dad's house shoes and broke down. I slept on his side of the bed to feel closer to him. In the morning my Aunt woke me up very suddenly saying we had to go to the hospital right away to be with my Dad - that it could either be 2 minutes or 2 weeks, but it was going to happen soon. I called Cameron into my room, and we had our first legitimate cry together as siblings, both scared to death of what was happening to us and our family. I held him as we sat down on the edge of my bed, and he cried "I can't grow up with out a Dad - with only one parent, I can't" and told him that I would be there for him no matter what and that we would always have each other and that I loved him very much even though we often fight like cats and dogs.

Easter Monday, the day my dad died, I cried the most. Till I was exhausted and didn't really have tears for the rest of the week, until the funeral. The entire week felt like it was taking so long to pass, but this week I feel like a week was deleted from my life. Leading up to the funeral I felt like I was waiting in an airport. It felt like I was waiting to get somewhere with nothing else to do but watch other people continue their own lives and get to where they were going with ease. The world didn't stop for them. Their flight wasn't indefinitely delayed, and they moved without knowing what misfortune feels like. This week, I feel like I'm jet lagged. I feel like I've arrived *somewhere* and my body and mind are exhausted from the journey and feel the urgent need to adjust, while also maintaining some normalcy. There's no normal anymore though. It'll be a new normal, eventually. Right now, I'm in-between worlds.

We often forget how lucky we are to be alive. My Dad's death has changed my life in that it has presented me with the challenge of deciding my own character. I realized that how I respond to this - and all the other things that happen to me in life - will define the kind of person that I am and the kind of person people perceive me to be. I've decided to let positivity be the outcome of my grief. It's easy to focus on the negatives of the situation my family and I are in. It really doesn't seem that fair that we should grow up without our dad and that my mom should be widowed so young. Its not great that for the next while we are going to be in a lot of pain, and our lives will never be the same. It will never be us four again. It's easy to scorn life if we focus on this exclusively.

There's always a positive to the negative. I lost my dad, but I gained self-knowledge and strength, and the inspiration and motivation I need to be who I eventually want to be. I learned that I'm so lucky to be alive and to have opportunities to fulfill my dreams, and to be happy and to have fun. I learned that life really is to be lived and not to be squandered. I learned that family is so important, and that mine is pretty freaking fantastic. I learned that I have many wonderful brothers and sisters within my family and outside of it that have shown how much they care, not only through words, but through their actions. I learned what real love is and exactly what it must feel like - and know that it can help heal any wound left by great loss. I learned that the phantom limb is not really loss at all - its the reaffirmation of family. Its proof that we are more a family now than ever before. It means that physical presence doesn't make a difference to true love and family. Here, or gone, it feels the same. It is the same, but different.