My father in law died suddenly and unexpectedly last weekend. He was found still under the covers of his bed in a position of repose. It looked like his death was peaceful and painless.
Painless for him at least. We feel like we have been slapped in the face, punched in the stomach, and had a piece of our hearts ripped out. And those injuries are all the more painful because we hadn’t healed yet from the death of my mother-in-law, who lost her eleven month battle with brain cancer only one year ago.
That was the first time someone I had been really close to died. She had only been part of my life for ten years, but we had vacationed together, celebrated special occasions together, and shared so many meals with each other, as well as our secrets and fears and wishes. When we still lived on the west coast I had gone out to lunch and shopping with her regularly. And when we moved to the Midwest I talked to her on the phone at least once a week. Her death was the first time I had experienced that large hole in my life, where a loved one had been.
I wasn’t as close to my father-in-law. Like my husband, he was a stoic independant man for whom it would be out of character to pick up a phone and call someone just to chat. Although, we were impressed and grateful that that is just what he did after his wife died. He tried to fill her shoes as a parent. But those were pretty big shoes.
My mother-in-law’s death was painful and lingering. We had plenty of time to prepare ourselves for the final outcome and to say goodbye. And, in the end, her passing was a blessing to her. My father-in-law was healthy and hale. His death sucked the air out of the room and left us gasping.
My daughter is the emotional one in the family. She cries freely and unabashedly. I respect that about her and try to make our family a safe place for her to feel her feelings. The day after her grandfather died she wailed something that really struck my heart. She said “I will never see him again!”
That “never” is the most horrible part of death. It is so utterly final. It’s neverness is as as sure a constant as the blackness of a black hole. And when you are still getting used to the death of a loved one, that Never is everywhere you turn. You will never get to say sorry. You will never get to say good-bye again. They will never see your child grow up. They will never be there when you need them. They are gone, ripped out of life, and you can almost see with your eyes the shimmer shadow of Never that walks where they used to walk.