It has been a long time since I updated this. My lack of updates was due to many things, like being busy with the families and trying to help my dad out. But the main reason was there wasn’t anything to update to the family about Phyllis. No, I didn’t forget her, but there are some things that need to be taken care of in private and honestly, there was a bitterness about the happy moments, ‘the firsts’.
The First Anniversary
I have this ability to remember everything. Especially when there is emotion attached. But it is a blessing for some things and others I wish I could forget.
Last Tuesday was the first anniversary of Phyllis’s passing. I remember everything about the day. It started off as a normal day with dropping Hunter off. Well, as normal as it could be since I was getting daily calls from my dad telling me that Hospice was saying she didn’t have much longer, that she was struggling to breathe, or that we had to up her morphine dose. So yes, it was normal in the sense that I was keeping myself busy with the routine of school and work but the sadness was there weighing on my shoulders knowing what was imminent. At about 10:30 AM, my dad called me at work. The raw emotion in his voice came through the phone that was sobering and bought tears to my eyes.
“The nurse said she won’t make it much longer”
How much time?
“A few hours at best”
Do you want me to leave work?
“There isn’t much you can do if you come here, just finish out work I don’t want you to get in trouble”
I won’t get in trouble at work, but I know he just wanted to let me know, hear I loved him and that it was OK. You should understand that at this point, we knew what was coming and it was going to be soon. In 2 hours or 72, time was running out. I went on my day the best I could. I went out to lunch with co-workers and kept up my image of everything being OK. When we left the office, one of my co-workers and good friend asked how was Phyllis. I was OK when I didn’t talk or think about it. I looked at him and did my best to hold it together but I was at my breaking point and knew if I said something, I would break. I grabbed his hand and squeezed it and he just knew. ‘It will be ok’ he said and then changed the conversation to something light hearted. At lunch, with 3 of my co-workers who I consider close friends all knew. They did their best to keep the conversation light and funny. They know how to make me laugh.
During tough times, those are the points in our lives where we see who truly cares, who helps, and sometimes holds you up when you are breaking apart. I wrote about it in one of my earlier posts what happened after I left work that day. Phyllis ended up passing that night.
The First Holidays
It doesn’t matter what time of year a loved one passes. I have heard people say ‘oh at least you got Christmas, or you got <insert some holiday>” and I know they don’t know what to say to help. But I can say if you want to help, talk about what the person loved on that holiday. Remember them, joke about the things they used to do. For the first Easter we had an Easter egg hunt at the house. It would have been something Phyllis would have loved. All the holidays we celebrated together always made her happy. All she ever wanted was all us kids together, sharing laughter and having time as a family. Each holiday came and went with the bitter emptiness that was obvious no matter how hard you tried to keep the day joyful.
- Mother’s Day
- New Years
- Her Birthday
The First Moments
In each happy event there was always this void. An emptiness that something isn’t just right but there isn’t anything that can be done to fix it. We do our best to be present in the moment and celebrate with family and friends. I sometimes wondered if they were thinking about Phyllis too. Sometimes it was apparent, other times it was a subtle glance or seeing tears well up in someone’s eyes for a brief instant and then they would move past the moment to be strong, to not bring the mood of the celebration down.
- Bree’s First Birthday
- Bryan’s Baseball games
- Hunter singing at her first event
- Hunter’s Honors Night,
- Birthday Shopping, the list goes on
These were all events that Phyllis cherished. She went to Hunter’s last grandparent concert when she was diagnosed. She was going to Bryan’s games till she couldn’t walk anymore. She wouldn’t miss those for the world unless she was physically unable to.
The First Year
I would like to say we made it. In reality we survived it. I still worry about my dad and call him almost every day. He is getting better but he still has his days. I know we all do but it’s always harder for those that were affected the most. The survivors. There are things I can’t bring myself to do. I still have her number stored in my phone. I tried to rename it to just ‘Dad’ but couldn’t. it makes me tear up to try to do it so I just stop. Maybe I will in the future or maybe it will be like that forever. I see it with Hunter and the random outbursts that ends with ‘I miss Grandma’. It catches me off guard and breaks my resolve to be strong and in control. But I take that moment to miss her too and tear up. I just told a friend that I am trying to learn that being vulnerable isn’t weak. It is being human. We all have our vulnerabilities and if we didn’t we couldn’t grow, be kind, or understand that sometimes our vulnerabilities open us up to our strengths.
We had her memorial down in Florida around her birthday and I know she was smiling down on is. John Covel, Bryan and I all together. All spending time with dad. It was something that just us kids haven’t done in over 20 + years. Before the families and responsibilities of life. Before when it was just us kids just learning how our blended family works. Before the sickness and sadness. For a few days it was just the 3 of us. Two brothers and one sister laughing, crying, and just being ourselves with our dad but this time instead of Phyllis being there physically, she was there in spirit loving every moment.
We all said we need to do this every year and agreed to try to do it. For us, it will be a New First.
Peace, Love and happiness from our family to yours,