Here's my perspective on the death of my dad, Arthur Aaron Steiner, final age 74, in 2008.
Let me first address a little of the relationship I had with my dad. It was very different to the quote above. I am the last child by ten and six years, and the only girl - my saving grace! I was daddy's little girl in most senses. My childhood memories until I was eleven were of hanging out with my dad while he fiddled with the engine in his car; or as a one-time passenger in the dump truck he drove for a while; being hugged/squished to within an inch of my life with one of his huge bear hugs; or as his surrogate counsellor at the age of eight when my parents divorced. I loved my dad and for many years also felt responsible for his pain or happiness.
Then he re-married...I was eleven, and that was the end of our quantity time together. We still had the same bond but due to the nature of his new marriage our connection became quality over quantity. I saw less and less of my dad as the years progressed. I often rallied against him for this until I realised that ours was a relationship not based in years, but in snippets of time caught between our lives lived in different cities, with different people and circumstances.
In my early twenties I began to see my parent's mortality. They were approaching their sixties and, thanks to a television show in which the mum dies, and my own mum's lack of closure with her dad before he died, I knew that if I didn't clean up any unfinished business with both of them it would be more challenging after the fact. So, clean up I did. I made sure that the relationship I had with my parents was open and that there were no stones left to upturn. It was a long journey with many tears, many shouts in anger and many sighs of relief. I heard my dad struggle to say he loved me, just once. That doesn't mean he didn't love me, it was just his own journey of feeling unloved that created that cycle. I saw his love in tangible ways and that was enough for me.
My dad died two weeks before I was due to visit from my current location in Australia to my hometown in Canada. One day he went for a nap and didn't wake up. What seemed like the 'good death' that we all want was actually a diabetic coma that he didn't wake up from. I got the call from my eldest brother and, after hanging up the phone felt two things...one, absolute peace for my dad, and two, joyous relief that I would never have to talk with my step mum again. It was never a healthy relationship despite my counselling skills!
In part because of the close timing for planned travel, I wasn't able to attend the funeral...and I was okay with that. I had grieved for my dad's death many years before. I had grieved for the loss of our bond when I moved away from my hometown all the way across to the other side of the world! But I brought my memories of him with me.
My wedding in 2000...a very happy day.
It's been five years since my dad died, but I feel him in my heart all the time. I have had no need or desire to see where his body is buried. Aesthetically I think graveyards are beautiful and valuable, but for me, it's not where my dad is. He's right where I need him, here in my heart.
I don't miss my dad. When I feel the need to have a chat I just do, and we talk. The great thing here is, I get to have any kind of chat I want and I also get to choose how he answers now! He'd laugh his big bear laugh if he were alive to hear me say that!
In reference to the quote above, I don't feel abandoned by him. I did when I was little, after my parents divorced. I waited for him to return to take me away, but once I became aware of that longing I let him go. I found me and in doing so I found him...right where he was all along...in my heart.
It's my experiences with death, such as this one, that make me even more impassioned to inspire others to have conversations about death and dying with loved ones, before it's too late. When they die it's so much more challenging to finish the unfinished and let them find their place in your heart. I don't profess to expertise, only experiences, of which this is but one of many. And each has affected me differently, but all have further served to inspire me to live fully and passionately right here and now!
So, for another day, I am passionately yours,
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