Grief Sucks, But At Least It’s Preceded By Love

My dad’s birthday on Tuesday was incredibly hard. I had been doing okay leading up to it, hurting but not falling apart. My husband and I met up with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew at a Mexican restaurant Dad liked down here to have dinner the night before Dad’s birthday. We raised our margaritas to toast Dad and my nephew adorably wanted to cheers with the rest of us. I think Mom and Dad taught him that, and it always makes my heart squeeze with a reminder of how much I adore him, and now how much Dad loved his grandson. Dinner was really good and I didn’t cry until late at night when it hit me that for the second time the next morning would be Dad’s birthday and how unfair it was that he couldn’t celebrate that with Mom.

All in all, though, I’d done better emotionally than last year, so I wasn’t prepared to kind of fall apart on the actual day. Plus, to make the day even crappier, on top of missing him, this year had the addition of occasional semi-morbid thoughts. One was wondering what the analogy would be to drinking a margarita or milkshake be if things go bad for me. I know that’s self-centered and probably egotistical, but I also suspect it’s normal for someone with stage iv cancer on the birthday of her dad who is up in Heaven instead of here on Earth where she could call him.

I spent most of the day on the couch rewatching the first half of season 2 of Supergirl. Dad had said that her optimism reminded him of me so it seemed fitting, even though he only saw most of season 1 and, obviously, none of season 2. I had thought of decluttering or cleaning since, when I was a kid, Dad used to spend hours helping me clean my room on weekends. I was awful at doing it on my own — it seemed overwhelming, plus I was super easily distracted by any book that I picked up to put away. It was easier with my dad patiently helping me and making sure I didn’t start reading any books I picked up. With books, I have always had the self-control of a beagle with steak.

Not being able to call and wish Dad a happy birthday hurt so damn much. Despite that, multiple times throughout the day I thought/prayed variations on, “As awful as this is, I don’t want this to be the last time I’m alive for Dad’s birthday. I want to be raising a margarita and drinking a milkshake to him for years and years to come.”

I guess that’s the basic nature of grief. As awful as it is — at least it’s preceded by love. The pain of grief is better than not having loved someone enough to feel a deep pain at their absence. I hate that Dad is gone and I hate the pain of missing him, but I’m grateful to both still be here to feel that pain, and to have had such a wonderful dad in the first place. He really was the very best. I’m grateful to be his daughter.

Celebrating Despite Cancer

Monday was the first wedding anniversary for my husband and me. It was not what we expected a year ago, but it happened.

Last year we talked about how our first anniversary would be free of cancer. We discussed doing a photo shoot to show that we had survived. I clearly remember seeing my dad lean over to help convince my mom that, though we’d love to travel with them, it wasn’t something we wanted to do the weekend of our first anniversary. Despite that, we did expect to get a call from him on the day wishing us a happy anniversary and sharing how proud he was of the love we had for each other, and how pleased he was that I’d found someone who clearly loved and supported me through even (what we thought then were) the worst of times.

Of course, we didn’t get a call from him on our anniversary. I did dream about the night before, but that’s a weak substitute.

He and my mom were madly in love with each other for the entirety of their marriage. As an adult, I could clearly see how lucky and rare it was for me to have such a strong example of devotion and love in my life. Corny as it might sound, there were lessons from their example that influenced me and what I wanted my marriage to be. I knew a good marriage involved daily commitment to each other, love and support from both parties for both parties’ dreams and aspirations, love being shown in everything from doing the dishes to regular date nights, and that communication was key. I know it might sound odd, but facing my first anniversary was strange without one of the two people who most demonstrated to me what a good marriage could be.

However, it turned out to be good. I asked a group of friends for some prayers and vibes to help me with my grief and anger (yes, the return of cancer brings with it a lot of anger) so that even though I’m still in some physical pain (mostly controlled by meds, but still limiting me to walking not even a full block), I could find a way to laugh and still celebrate.

Well, we ended up celebrating by turning my doctor-prescribed walk into an anniversary selfie-shoot, complete with my wedding parasol (though, without any makeup because that just seemed exhausting). The process made us laugh and relax, which was priceless. Looking at the photos to share with friends and family on Facebook, made me reflect on the good of this year. Yes, it’s been an objectively pretty awful year. Between cancer pt 1, losing my dad, and cancer pt 2 — the huge amounts of grief and anger are totally understandable. However, they don’t eliminate the good. They can’t erase the reasons to smile. We have our love and we have the support of so many friends and family. We have our weird senses of humor that make us laugh.

Sometimes this means that the same hour includes crying and laughing (both of which, by the way, are painful AF for an abdomen that was vertically sliced open). It means that if you look closely at the photos, you can see that we’re exhausted and that I recently had tears in my eyes. It always means that we have each other.

And maybe that’s incredibly corny, but on the first anniversary of our wedding and every single other day, there is no one else I want at my side,, helping carrying my grief and anger baggage, as I face the cancerous road ahead.

Three images of Bethany and Jarrod laughing and being cute