“My dad went in for a leg surgery, everything went well, and two days later he had a sudden heart attack and passed away.” Every time someone asks me how my dad died my instant reaction is to say just that. I keep it short and to the point. I do this because I’ve learned over the past nine years since he’s been gone people don’t ask me how he died so they can know every single detail, they ask me because they want it to seem like they care or they think it’s what they are obligated to do. It’s fine though, I’d prefer if you wouldn’t ask me about my father’s death.
It may sound rude or snarky for me to say that but after nine years unless it’s going to potentially help you with your grief I’d rather be asked other questions when the conversation of parents come up.
It’s painful for me to share the way he passed away and deal with all the sad faces and comments of sympathy that come along with it.
Because once the sad faces disappear and the comments turn into an awkward silence somehow the topic changes to something completely different and I am stuck in my own thoughts reliving the longer version of that short sentence I just gave to you.
You would think after all this time I would be use to it, I’m not, I’ll never be, and it will always give me a miserable feeling in the pit of my stomach.
There are times I just want to scream out and say, “Don’t you want to know more? Don’t you want to know who he was? Don’t you know just because he passed away doesn’t mean I don’t have memories to share in the discussion?”
You have no idea all the things I want to say about the man I called my Dad.
I’d love to tell you about the times he picked me up from the bus stop after school and “My Girl” always managed to come on the radio as I got into the car. Or the time my mom and I thought he was fighting with someone in the living room, but in reality the Raiders made a terrible play and he was just so pissed off. I want to tell you about the talks we had before bed at night. And how he would never tell me fairy tales but stories that would either teach me an important lesson about life or make me laugh so hard my stomach would hurt.
I’d love to tell you how many times a day he told me he loved me or what his face looked like when my mom walked into the room. I’d like to talk about how his favorite color was blue, how he tanned in the matter of two seconds, and how he had a guilty pleasure for KFC and Chinese food but hated “fake” Italian food. I’d want to boast about all the good things he did for people and how he never asked for anything in return except for loyalty and friendship. I would love to share the little moments with you like when he held my hands on the couch because mine were always cold and his were always warm.
I want to tell people about the day I “helped” my dad and mom take down the ugly wallpaper in my room and paint it my favorite color. Which in reality was his favorite color. And there is nothing I’d love more than to share with you my favorite moment, a simple father daughter dance I was lucky to have with him at my communion and how in that moment I could feel every ounce of his love he had for me.
I would love to share every single positive memory I have with my father because there are so many more of those than the negative ones that I’m asked to share.
Life is so much longer and memorable and yet we focus on death, which is just so short and not preventable. So I beg you please stop asking me how my father died and start asking me how my father lived. I can guarantee those stories will involve laughter and happy tears instead of awkward silences and topic changes. Because I know it’s not just what I want but it’s what he would have wanted.