There are hundreds of books out there on grieving, death, and loss. I’ve started to read a few hoping to find something valuable. I don’t even know what I should be looking for, though. I don’t know what I need.
Tonight is a dance night for the girls. I dropped them off and the boys and I bummed around. We grabbed some food and then went to a park that Kathryn used to take the girls to when they were little and we lived in Como Park. I have no memories of being at that park with them because I was likely working when she took them there, yet I saw her there with the girls. She was holding their hands as they toddled in the wading pool and as they climbed on the playground. I could hear her voice as she chased them around or as she washed their hands before a snack. Her absence was so strong in that place; it hollowed me out.
After some time, the boys and I hopped back in the van and went to pick up the girls. While we were waiting in the parking lot for them to come out from class I opened up my bank app to check balances-a perfectly mundane thing to do on your phone when you have a free moment. My checking balance had jumped and I knew why. I had just received a modest life insurance payout on Kathryn, enough to cover the funeral and a bit more. My throat swelled and I wanted to smash the phone against the steering wheel. I wanted to shove the money back up the insurance company’s ass. How dare they put a value on her. The hollow space welled with tears, my throat became even fatter, and I started to weep.
“I love you, Dad”, Elias said. Alexander quickly followed with an “I love you, Dad.” These boys are their mother’s sons: compassionate, empathetic, caring. They’ve been like this for a long time but especially so after Kathryn went on hospice in July and I started crying a lot.
After I sobbed for a while I reached back and gave each of them a squeeze and told them I loved them. I collected myself, put the van in drive and drove up to the door in time for the girls to see us as they exited the building. They hoped in and we drove home, the kids playfully chatting about dance, Newsies, the overplayed song on the radio, Saturn V rockets; you know, typical kid stuff.
Tonight clearly demonstrated that I still don’t know what I need to address my sorrow. It’s hard to find something when you can’t define what you are looking for or even know what it’s supposed to do when you find it. I know I need to continue living through sorrow, (it’s like the ultra-running mantra “Relentless Forward Progress”, which is usually uttered in the context of physical pain and mental doubt); but right now life feels so empty and I feel so alone. It’s hard to put one foot in front of the other without your best friend and encourager-in-chief by your side. What can change that? She’s gone and the money is in the bank to prove it.
As I write this I keep thinking about those two sweet voices from the second row in the van saying “I love you, Dad” as I sobbed with my face in my hands. They were God’s peace and comfort in that moment, not to take away the pain or the hollowness, but rather to endure it with me. I guess that’s what I needed today.