I wrote these supporting words to others over the years. Now I must heed them myself and hope that my family can find it in them to do the same.
For Gail (2003)
Fathers are special people. For many of us they symbolize strength and stability, warmth and security. Losing a father leaves us weak and shaky, cold and insecure, until we realize that though they have passed away, they have passed on to us those characteristics we so deeply admired. Take pride in your father’s accomplishments, for he helped to mold you into the person you are today. Thank him for those qualities, forgive him for leaving you now, and smile as he completes his journey into the sunshine of your memories.
We share your grief in these difficult times, and hold you and your family in our thoughts. Your friends are here for you and your family should you find yourself in need.
For Sharon (1996)
Sharon asked: Does the feeling that you’ve been hit by a truck ever go away?
I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. I know you are very close to your family, which is a blessing and a curse; it’s a blessing because in trying times you can lean on each other for support, but it’s a curse because the pain of losing a family member is all the more powerful.
That “hit by a truck” feeling never goes away, but like my friend Bill said, it diminishes with time. Closure can come quickly or slowly, but one thing to do is to forgive your father for dying. It helps you to let go and make peace. Death is the ultimate abandonment, and the child inside us is scared, angered, or bitter about being left alone.
We have to play mental tricks to realize that we’ve not been abandoned; instead, our dads are with us in a different way now–no longer in the flesh, but in our hearts, and souls; in the eyes of our kids; in the laughter of the grandbabies; in the way we boil water, or fold a sheet, or love another human being; in all that is the world around us. Our departed loved ones no longer toil through life, but we can still see them when the sun glistens just right off the lake at sunset; we still hear them, when we really try, in the rustle of the trees; we still feel the flutter of their kiss on our cheek in the afternoon breeze.
The trucks still rumble throughout the night, but for those who believe in an afterlife, they can believe the trucks are delivering our friends and family to a happier, safer, healthier place. In time, we may find peace in that.
Take care of yourself, especially now, because it also helps soothe the jangled spirit. Call if you feel like talking.
For Beth (2007)
Your friends care about you, and are here to help you should the load ever grow too great. This is what I learned, when watching my mom Willie die, and what I’ve tried, in my own feeble way, with my own feeble words, to express.
Be thankful for your many friends and loved ones; be thankful for the years with your father; be thankful you took on his many positive characteristics; be thankful that he’ll soon be free from pain, though it’s something you’ll have to inherit for a time; and be thankful that the love he’s given you all these years will never dissipate, never diminish, because he knew that you would be the vessel in which to keep it nourished, in which to help it grow.
You’ve got great strength, coupled with great compassion, both of which are invaluable qualities in the most difficult of times. Though our paths cross only as friends and workmates, know that all of us care, and care deeply. You have clearly learned much from your father, and it is because of those lessons that we all respect and admire the person you are today.
Allow yourself to grieve
When the time is right for grief
Allow yourself to laugh
When memories demand laughter
Allow yourself to cry
When tears beg to flow
Allow yourself to love
When it’s love you need the most
Allow yourself to heal
When the time for healing comes
Be well and take care of yourself
P.S. A week ago, just before leaving for Rally Mexico, I learned that my old friend Martin from the Las Vegas racing days passed away. My words for him are still unwritten, begging to escape, but somehow avoiding capture. Like tears, they will flow in time.