Today I’m taking Ren out of camp, skipping my conference call and driving up to Vermont to attend my brother-in-law’s Dad’s funeral. Pete’s dad passed away Sunday morning after a quick cancerous decline. Three weeks ago, Pete and my sister rushed up to Vermont to say goodbye, not knowing whether they’d make it in time, but his Dad rallied and hung on.
My parents flew into Boston yesterday from Hawaii so they could attend the funeral. I was surprised they would go to all this effort, but that’s what I love about them—they want to be there for whoever they consider "family" whenever the opportunity arises--money, energy, discomfort all be damned.
Pete’s dad is the first of the grandparents in my immediate family to go, which strikes a certain sense of foreboding. And my kids feel that—on our drive home from Maine on 4th of July one prayed "thank you" for still having all 4 grandparents. I’m certainly grateful that all 3 of my kids will have vibrant memories of their Puo-Puo, Gong-Gong, Gram and Pop.
As a child there was nothing I was more afraid of than death, my own and my parents’. When they left me with a babysitter, after crying my 3-year-old eyes out, if I woke in the night, I’d creep into their bedroom just to make sure they hadn’t died in a car accident. Seeing their inert forms, I’d wait until I saw their chests rise and fall before going back to bed.
For years, I thought I could never bear the death of those I deeply love, and it’s still an iffy question—but as I age and death becomes increasingly inevitable for the generation above me, I’ve become more resigned. Or maybe just more shut down.
A reason I decided I had to go home to Hawaii this summer even though we really shouldn’t have spent the money is I’m aware each time I see my parents that it might be the last time. My father turns 80 next May, the age his father died. He only has one artery going to his brain that isn’t clogged or kinked. My mom eats too much and doesn’t exercise.
So I’m going to mourn with Pete for his dad. I’m going to weep for a man I only met several times because I've loved and known his son for 23 years. I’m going to rage at death and even if it's part of life, it still feels like a travesty of God’s intention.
But through it all, I’m going to enjoy my parents’ presence for this upcoming week. I'm going to work on enjoying them (rather than getting annoyed with them) for the month we’ll spend together in Hawaii.
Like my kids, I want to remember to be grateful that they're still with me.