10 May 2012

How do you measure grief?

This last visit to Canada once again had a lot to do with my mother. When I booked my flight, we'd made plans to get together as the daughters and sort through my mother's stuff: to pick out keepsakes, to allow her sisters and a good friend to do the same, and simply to give a chance to have her things be used by others - whether by us or those who might purchase them at the local Bibles for Missions store.

It was good. But it also meant putting ourselves back in the middle of grief. We remembered my mother again - not only on account of the things she bought and kept - but also by telling stories again. Now that the pain was less raw, we could talk together about those last hours we each had with mom. And once again, I grieved her loss and everything surrounding it, although the fullness of the grief waited until I was home again in Amsterdam.

Being in the house of my father brought me closer to his grief. It is never easy to be confronted with the sadness of another - especially not in our family, where we have learned to be strong and adapt. Yet, I had been worrying about my father and wanted to see for myself how he was doing: was he really doing okay? And the answer is yes, he's doing really well, considering everything that's happened. He's lonely and he's grieving, but it is a good sadness: an honest and healthy response to everything that he's lost. He's managing the details of life well - something that could have been an overwhelming challenge considering my mom took care of many of the household tasks and bookwork. He's still doing things he's good at and loves - he's driving truck part-time and volunteering and helping others and is very much firm in his beliefs. And he's still as stubborn and obstinate (eigenwijs) as always, but he also loves us his children as much as he always has, if not even more now. He's looking forward to a future, even if it's one that's drastically different than he expected less than 6 months ago: after all, there are grandchildren coming, and he (as do I) hopes and believes that God will be with him and take care of him.

This visit reminded me how thankful I am to be part of this family - and how proud I am of my dad. We are hardly perfect (like usual, this visit we also had some squabbles and discussions), but we love each other, and we are good for each other.

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