It has been almost two months since my father died. Perhaps, not enough time has elapsed to make me a sage on the subject of death, but I’ll never pass up a chance to share my thoughts about something.
Let me back up a bit.
As many of you know, I have experienced some relatively significant depression over the last few years. I have not been shy about sharing the dark times. For a while, things became a lot better, but I still have to wake up each morning and do a quick self-diagnosis to see whether I would be able to handle the day emotionally. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is not so good.
One would think my father’s passing would have caused more of the same, but such has not been the case. Don’t get me wrong. I have been very sad. In fact, I cried a bit this morning, as I talked to my sister about it. In general, the sadness I feel over his death feels more natural (as natural as the pain of death can feel). Yet, there was also a very particular darkness that left my life at 10:15 a.m. on November 8th.
A few years have passed since I first started crying. I called it “Crying For No Reason At All”, when I blogged about it then. It seemed unreasonable back then, since I could not name a specific cause for it. But one day, I was listening to George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” while driving, and it reminded me of my parents. It made me think of how much my dad loved my mother, and how much of a void the effects of her aneurysm and stroke left in his life. Though still alive, she was gone in 2006. When I received a new mother, he received a new wife. Over the last seven years, he lived like a broken man who could not be put back together. With his daughter gone and his wife replaced, he never regained his ability to seek purpose, or find a happy moment before he died.
During this time, I did not realize how much his outlook on life and his fractured soul affected those of us who loved him. To have someone so sad around you is harder than being sad yourself. It eventually takes its toll on everyone, and the Lord does not always rescue us from this referred pain.
Had I stayed in Frisco rather than coming home to be the superman of our family, maybe I would have not fallen so hard. But I did, and so did everyone else. For years we have tried to figure out how to lift up our father, yet remain afloat ourselves. He lived in one room of the house, rarely leaving except to find solace at a local bar. Even then, he just laid his head on the bar and vacillated between crying and the false hope the next drink would bring.
When I moved my family in with my mother and father, I thought I would be his savior. I would emotionally limp into the room every day and try to lift up a man who had no intention of loosening his grip on his sorrow. It’s like when you don’t want a sad song to end, but it should. You wallow in sadness, because you cannot help it. You think this is the way it is. The sad lyrics speak to a certain aspect of your life to such degree that you define yourself by nothing but the sorrow of the song. However, it needs to end. You have to press stop, and move on to something else. But he could not. The same sad song played over and over again, and became the ambient music for all of us who loved him.
Then he died. And while there was so much regret and confusion, (Why didn’t the Lord let me save him? Why does God allow so much pain with so little purpose?) there were so many dark clouds that left with him.
Bearing someone else’s pain is beyond our ability, and can supersede our own pain. Why? I suppose it is because of the helplessness we feel. With our own pain, we can at least do something about it (to some degree). We are more in control. But when it is the pain – especially emotional pain – of someone we love, we have no recourse. It is not ours to fix, but we carry the burden anyway.
When my dad died, the burden left. The sadness that I felt responsible to fix was taken from me. And I am beginning to think that it was much of the cause for my sadness over the last few years.