Falling

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Last night I put out my fall decorations. I love fall, especially fall decor. Bright oranges, burnt yellows, harvest greens… nothing feels homier. But last night as I lit apple and cinnamon scented candles, a distinct sadness came over me.

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I think the hardest part of missing my dad are the firsts. Anything I do for the first time without him is really tough. The first college football Saturday without my dad’s obnoxious Gator phone calls, the first soccer practice for Bean, the first day of school. All those firsts are painful. But it is the unexpected firsts that are hardest of all.

Pulling my fall decorations out of their neatly packed boxes, my dad was the last thing on my mind for once. I concentrated on wreath placement and candle distribution, and all of a sudden I stopped in my tracks and thought, “This will be our first fall without Dad.”

It’s not that I associate fall with my dad. There was nothing particularly poignant about that season that reminds me directly of him. But to be leaving the season where I last saw him and moving into another reminds me that he’s not going forward with us. It was such a painful realization that I literally had to stand very still until the moment passed me and I could catch my breath again.

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Generally speaking, I’m doing pretty good right now. For the past week or so, I could think about my dad and talk about him without crying or becoming too terribly sad. But I have been shying away from anything really personal. I can talk about him in broad strokes. “Dad would have loved this…” or “Remember when Dad did that…” But I had stopped thinking about him as a presence in my life. I didn’t, for example, think about his laugh or the feeling of his hugs or the sound of his voice. I think I was just tired of crying so damn much that whenever those things crept into my mind, I would simply do something else. I had a picture of him as my computer wallpaper and my iPhone screen saver, and I took those down last week. It was just too much to see him or feel him too closely. So, for a couple of days, I took a break from that and thought about him in very impersonal ways.

But putting up those fall decorations brought all of that flooding back to me, and I felt as sad and mournful as I did during the immediate days after his passing.

On my way to work this morning, I heard him talking and laughing. I hadn’t allowed myself to think about that in over a week, but hearing that distinct, joyful voice calling out, “Katharine!” took my breath away. Work itself was uneventful, but also uninspired. I felt exhausted from grief and I haven’t felt that weariness in over a week. After work on my way to pick the kids up from daycare, I could feel my dad sitting next to me. I don’t believe that when we die we hang around earth, so I don’t think it was him sitting there, but I could picture him so clearly sitting in my passenger seat, asking me about my day, about the kids, about Chris. And I had such a strong desire to just pick up my phone and call him. But I couldn’t.

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And then, as luck would have it, on our way home from daycare, Bean asked me about him. He hasn’t asked about Granddad in two weeks, but today Dad must have just been on all our hearts because Bean asked me out of nowhere, “Mom, where is Granddad again?” And once again I told him that Granddad had died and now lived in Heaven with God.

“And Lt. Dan?” he asked me.

“Yes,” I said, smiling, thinking about how my dad would have laughed his head off at that logic. “Yes, Granddad is in Heaven with your fish, Lt. Dan.”

“When will we see him again?”

“Well,” I said, struggling for words to a question that Bean had not yet asked me before. I didn’t want to tell Bean that we would see Granddad again in Heaven because I didn’t want Bean’s little literal brain to think that we were going to see Granddad again soon. And he’s not yet old enough to get too religious or philosophical with yet. So, I decided to just be straight and simple with him. “We won’t see Granddad again, Buddy. When someone dies, we don’t see them anymore. But we can talk to them when we pray to God and we can miss them and talk about them together. But we won’t see Granddad again.”

Bean sat there for a minute quietly and then said, “I miss him.”

I told him that I missed him, too. “If Granddad were sitting in this seat right now,” I said, patting the very same passenger seat I had just pictured him sitting in not 15 minutes earlier, “I’d tell him about how I went running yesterday for the first time in a long time. What would you tell him?”

“I’d tell him about my soccer game!” Bean squealed. “And I’d show him my soccer ball!”

“Oh, good one!” I said.

“Where is Heaven, mom?” Bean asked very seriously.

“It’s up in the sky, buddy. See those clouds way up there? That’s where Heaven is, and that’s where Granddad lives now.”

“But I can’t see him,” Bean said, looking out his window.

“I know. We can’t see people when they go to Heaven. But I bet Granddad is sitting up in one of those big clouds, just waiting to see you play soccer. Maybe on Saturday at your soccer game, we’ll see some clouds and maybe Granddad will be sitting up in them watching you play!”

“YEAH!” Bean shouted, clearly happy with the idea of a heavenly audience.

“Austin pushed me down on the playground today…” and our conversation quickly changed. Leaving me sitting there with a heavy, heavy heart and tears in my eyes while we talked about Austin being put in time out today at school.

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Some days, things are okay and I can laugh and get things done and think about Dad without that panicked feeling. And then on the other days, it is the simplest of tasks, like putting out pumpkin decor, and the most innocent of questions, like “When will we see Granddad again?” that take me right back to the day he died all over again. But each time that fall happens, it takes me a little less time to get myself back upright. I can pull myself together a little quicker. I can smile and take a step forward a little sooner. And maybe that’s how the loss of a loved one lives inside of you.

The fall never hurts any less, but you learn to stand up a little faster.

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25 Thoughts to “Falling”

  1. aw, sweetie…you’re in my prayers. You and sweet Bean…at such a young age, such profound thoughts. I’m sure that Lt Dan and his Grandpa are looking down on both of you.

  2. Brooke

    This post brought tears to my eyes Katie. I recently lost someone very close to me as well. I think you did an amazing job explaining it to him- I try to think of it the same way. Praying for you and your family every day.
    Brooke

  3. Beanie & Gracie's Nana

    Today was a tough day for me, too, Kitten. Cleared away all the flowers, packed up all the cards and letters. Felt like I was packing away my life with Dad. The foundation of faith is still ever present, but these waves of grief just take my breath away. Thank the Good Lord that I have my wonderful family to lean on.

  4. B went through a lot of similar feelings after his dad died and I still think he has some of them today, 3 years later. To be very honest, the holidays tend to be very difficult. It’s ok to be sad and miss him but don’t forget to love on the family that is there with you. I think you are doing an excellent job of that and I love how you handled Bean’s questions. So many people particularly in American culture, hide their feelings but it’s really OK to have and express them.

  5. Carla

    Beautiful post. Sad & poignant, but beautiful nonetheless. Still praying for you & your family.

  6. Emily

    Beautiful post. I lost my father a few years ago and it took a long time for those feelings to pass. I still have my moments five years later but it isn’t as heart-wrenching. It’s almost always triggered by my children doing something special and realizing my dad never got to meet them or see any of the awesome stuff they are capable of. Anyway, it gets better. Hang in there. I know it seems like you’ll never be able to shake the grief but you will. Love and prayers to you and your family.

  7. Mary Kate

    So many prayers for you all, your faith through this is incredible.

  8. Oh Katie, I’m still praying for you. You have to be kind to yourself and not put too many expectations on grief. I also think you’re doing an excellent job at handling Bean’s questions, I think the God is giving you the answers Bean needs right now (and that you need, too).

  9. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing this part of you and your family. You’re in my prayers!!

  10. I have read that the custom of wearing mourning clothes for a year makes sense when you look at the psychological reality that for the first year, you are having all of these moments for the first time, and it’s a good reminder to those around you to say “Hey, I’m experiencing life differently from you guys. I have to go through the seasons at least one time, and experience them all again in the new way. Treat me gently.” This makes a lot of sense to me – I have not experienced the death of a close family member, but I did experience a trauma just over a year ago, and each change of season for a year afterwards, I replayed where I had been the year before, and relived the trauma, to some extent. So this observation about the yearly cycle makes a lot of sense to me. Smells were particularly difficult – the smell of the first snow and the first spring rain especially. Be kind to yourself, and my very best to your lovely mother.

  11. Katie my heart breaks for you whenever I think of your situation. I think you’re doing a fabulous job with Bean and hopefully you’re finding some internal healing as well. Just keep swimming.

  12. HollyT

    Katie, my thoughts and prayers are with your sweet family. I, too, lost my dad much, much too soon. I was 22 and had only been married for 4 months. Your posts have so accurately described what I felt. It’s been 9 1/2 years since his trip to Heaven and the pain is just as real now as it was when it first happened, although it doesn’t happen as often as before. You’re so right, first times–even normally insignificant things like fall decorations–are so hard. One of the hardest unexpected things was when we moved from the apartment we lived in for our first year of marriage. As we moved out of that apartment and into another apartment a deep, overwhelming sad realization came over me…that was the last place I would ever live that my dad had been in. He had helped us move into that apartment and in the process had knicked one of the corners with a piece of furniture. I stood and looked at that stupid knick in the wall and balled. It was physical proof that he had been there. Now three babies and almost ten years later I can’t help but think what life what be like if he were still here. It’s so, so hard to have to teach my kids about him from pictures and memories. I know without a doubt his salvation was secure and we’ll see him again. I also have a strong feeling that he got to love on my babies even before I knew them. And that is something I am forever grateful for. (((Hugs from Texas)))

  13. Chloe

    Believing for abundant blessings, peace and comfort as you find hope in the arms of the lord. X

  14. jamie

    big giant squeezie hugs. love how your beautiful sweet mom calls you kitten.

  15. Miriam

    My grandfather died when I was 12. Even now, many years later, I look up at the sky and its clouds when something really significant happens in my life. It’s usually when it’s something good and I just smile at my grandfather up there in Heaven and think “Hey, Opa, look what your little granddaughter is up to! I bet you’re proud of me right now.” Even though he’s been gone for a long time, it makes me feel connected to him, like he’s still here at least a little bit. Stay strong – all of you!

  16. Katy

    Since my dad died almost three weeks ago I have experienced many of the emotions you are describing Katie. Yesterday I was busy; I went to work, I went to the gym, my mind was occupied and went almost the whole day without thinking about my Dad in-depth, or with too much sadness. Then, walking home in the evening I was overcome by the realisation that I hadn’t thought about him and a huge fresh wave of grief poured over me. For me some of the worst times are walking to work, or in my lunchbreak, when I always used to call him. Knowing that I will never be able to call him again, never receive a text from him, never hear his voice makes my chest tight with a kind of heavy, deep sadness. Just take it one day at a time.

  17. Casey L.

    My Mom passed away 3 1/2 years ago and since we’ve lived out of state until a few weeks ago my kids have nver had a birthday party with all the family. So last Sunday at my daughter’s first family birthday party my brother and I snuck off together to get through the sadness of Mom not being there together. We both could hear her yelling at us to let our kids do whatever they wanted, to eat too many cookies and lollipops and to let them be kids. It slowly passed and we went back to join the rest of the party and we were fine. Big hugs to you Katie! I completely understand those moments that sneak up on you. They will never go away completely but your ability to handle them will get stronger!

  18. Connie

    Katie, I have followed you for a long time and really enjoy your writing and all about your beautiful children. Your post today really touched my heart. Even though it has been 22 years when both of my parents went to be with the Lord, I wish I would have been able to come up with the beautiful way you are with Bean and his questions. I was hurting so losing both in 6 weeks that my thoughts were’nt as gentel and sweet as you are with Bean. Now that the time has passed, we do talk and laugh about my parents, but those tears come too. Keep up the wonderful work on your grief, both you and your Bean. Talk is a wonderful theropy for the both of you. Know you are loved by may and have lots of
    thoughts and prayers coming you way.

  19. Laura

    Thinking of you and your family, Katie. Did I miss a post about Ginny’s baby????

  20. Keep writing Katie. It helps – you AND us. 🙂

  21. Another beautiful post about your dad’s beautiful life 🙂

  22. Katie, I’m sorry for your loss and your pain. Thinking about you and praying for you and your family.

  23. Maggie

    It was 7 years after my mother died that my innocent (and then 6-year-old) nephew asked what her name was. It was such a simple question, but it literally took my breath away. The tears sprang up out of nowhere. I answered him, of course, not wanting to freak him out, but it surprised me to feel the pain so fresh after 7 years. Sometime the pain of the loss just jumps up and gets ya, no matter how much time has passed. So sorry to have read about your loss, and I hope you find support and comfort from those closest to you at this difficult time.

  24. jamie feamster

    I know, it’s All So Hard…No Easy On Any of it…Love and Light to You and Your Family…You Are ALWAYS in my Prayer’s…

  25. Amadna H

    Beautifully written. You are an amazing mom, wife and daughter.

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