I feel like I should start a club. Two dear friends have lost their fathers in the three and a half years since I lost mine, and the circumstances were all somewhat similar. All of us had complicated, often difficult relationships with our fathers, but we were there, dutiful children providing care and comfort, at the end. All the fathers had been ill for a time before they passed, though the degree and timing of the illnesses were a bit different. And for all of us, the aftermath of their deaths has hit harder than we expected.
I let Father's Day pass quietly this year. I had planned to go to Maine with my sister, our annual celebration of Dad, to hike and photograph and visit the places where we scattered his ashes, but some expensive car repairs set me back and I couldn't afford to join her. I went to that medieval event instead, which would have been a good distraction had it not been such a wash, and ended up spending all of that Sunday at home. It was both good and bad -- good in that I wasn't bombarded with Father's Day stuff going on in the world, but bad in that I was stuck in my thoughts without outside influence.
There are still moments when I'm halfway through logging into my email to send him a question before I remember that I can't. There are random memory triggers, like the "bug show" Vermont Edition ran the other day (Dad was into entomology), or the profile I heard of a musician who played music Dad would've loved, or some groaner of a pun that would've made him chuckle, and when they sneak up on me it's all I can do to keep from bursting into tears.
Seeing my two friends going through the same thing is both a help and a struggle. There's some comfort in knowing I'm not alone in my grief, but I wish I could tell them that it gets better, that the pain goes away after a while. It doesn't. It changes, bit by bit, but you never stop feeling that loss, and it never stops hurting.
Cherish the people in your life while they're still with you. They may leave sooner than you think.