My New Normal
Writers Note: This blog was originally published in March of 2016, not long after we lost Dad. Since, I still find myself either referring to him, quoting him, or just thinking of him every day. I’m learning that we all have our stories about death. I have heard countless ones from my friends and clients, and of course now I’m sharing this story as well. I hope you enjoy it and maybe even share it with someone who might be going through a similar grieving process.
It’s been an interesting year so far…I’ve been busier than I’ve probably ever been…wound up last year with one of my best overall years ever…and my Dad died on January 31st. Yeah, that happened. I think of writing this when I’ve been able to run on the greenway by my house…needless to say, writers block has been huge lately. The family knew this was inevitable. Even though we always thought Dad was invincible, and would live forever, he wasn’t immortal. He lived exactly 91 years and one week. His birthday on the 24th was the Sunday of the snowstorm, and I was unable to be there. His birthday present was a DVD of Frank Sinatra, and is propped up on my dresser, and my housekeeper knows not to move it.
I talked to him at least 2-3 times a day during his last week…we always thought he would rally again like he always did. It was never how he was doing…but always how we were doing… be it me, my brother David, or his grandson Chase. I always said his last words would be “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.” When my Uncle Bill died 10 years ago, my cousin Bill gave his eulogy…and I saw my future flash in front of me. However, when I wrote about Dad last year in honor of his 90th birthday, I never thought I’d be printing it again to use as my notes when I wrote his obituary and also gave his eulogy.
One of the worst phrases I’ve ever heard used was at a neighbor’s grave side service, when the minister said “I never met Mrs. ______ , BUT…” and then he proceeded to give a ridiculously drawn out sermon. I truly just wanted him to shut the hell up. Her son was in tears the entire time and I hurt for him and his dad. So, we as a family made it a point that would never happen in our family. Mom & Dad’s Sunday School teacher read “The Good Samaritan” which was Dad personified, and then my cousin Bill (middle name Eugene after Dad) spoke for a few minutes, then I shared his life and some of my favorite stories to those that came. Then Chase asked he could speak which was so unexpected, but I know Dad was so proud of him. I don’t know who was prouder of whom. Us of our dad & Granddad, or him of us…
People have been very kind with their Facebook comments, cards, emails, et cetera…but no one can guide you through the grieving process. I don’t think I’ve ever been hugged so much in the last month…especially by my guy friends…one friend said, “Welcome to the fraternity…I talk to my Dad every day.” No matter how much planning I do for my clients about death, there’s no way I could be prepared for how I feel today. There’s no “self-help” book for grief or a talk show “guru” (I hate that word, by the way) it’s just a day at a time.
Friends & co-workers ask me how I’m doing and I say, ” I really don’t know…How am I doing?” I figure it’s up to them to tell me if I’m OK or not…that part of my barometer isn’t working. Grief, I am learning, is something you just have to do on your own…in your own way…on your own timeline. I go from rage to tears in a matter of a few minutes. It is what it is.
The biggest thing that has been difficult for me have been not having Dad to call when I had a long day, and it was second nature to call him on my drives home. I am just like him, so he always understood me when I got frustrated at trying to help people make good decisions, or just dealing with sales in general. Secondly, Dad is my favorite subject…whatever I was doing, be it work or play, I could always relate it back to him. Now I feel if I bring him up, I’m living in my past too much and it’s about me, so I just don’t anymore. It’s how I feel.
Mom and Dad would have celebrated the 67th anniversary of their first date in mid-February. I remember Mom saying that at his memorial and I commented…”I can’t get a dating relationship to last 67 days!” No couple loved each other more than they. I used to tell them our family was so normal, we were abnormal. So many people today say the marriage vows more as a ceremonial thing…Mom & Dad “stress tested” them to their limits…”in sickness & in health,” “for better or worse” and “till death us do part.” They got every single bit out of those words. I can only hope I might feel what that is like one day.
The day Dad died, Mom, David and my niece Courtney were beside him. I was racing at Mach 1 on I-40 to Knoxville to get there. Dad labored to breathe most of the morning, and when I was within a mile of the hospital, Mom called me and said “it’s time”. I got there a few minutes too late…and I lost it…and I’m losing it right now as I write this. Then something amazing happened…at least to me it was amazing…I hugged him and told him I needed him and that he couldn’t go yet…and his heart monitor started to show strong heartbeats…for a few seconds…That told me he knew I was there…and it was OK.
The last football game Dad watched was the AFC Championship with Peyton Manning. The following Sunday after Dad died was the Super Bowl. I stayed at home and watched it by myself…just didn’t have it to be sociable. During the first quarter, I saw something that stunned me. You probably never noticed it. A screenshot from after the game is below…nothing out of the norm, right?
I called Mom and asked her if she was watching the game, and of course she was – but even she didn’t see it until I made her focus a bit. Look at the pic…call it coincidence, call it a “God wink,” call it whatever you want…but there, in front of millions of people worldwid is our family name in the box score. CAR for Carolina, DEN for Denver. CARDEN. That confirmed to me that Dad is truly at peace, and everything will be okay. But I will miss my best friend for the rest of my days…
My way of communicating has always been my ability to write and to get my thoughts on paper. Maybe one day after I’m gone, these binders full of monthly rants will mean something to Chase & Courtney. Who knows? Anyway, I wanted to share my story about Dad one last time. I hope you enjoy it and maybe choose to share it with someone else who is going through this same process.
We’re on big round ball together, right? As always, thanks for your kind words, for your friendship, and for taking a few minutes out of your day to read my thoughts.
Brian E. Carden, Insurance & Financial Advisor
Securities and Advisory services offered through Madison Avenue Securities, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment advisor. Past market performance is not indicative of future performance or success. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.