I have experienced loss in my life. When I was 15, one of my dearest friends was killed in a car accident. That was experience number 1 that sometimes life is not fair, we are not invincible and the death of someone we care about hurts……. bad……..
I have lost other dear friends through the years. I have lost aunts and uncles to whom I was especially close. When I lost my brother, I thought that was a deep grief, and it was, in its own way. Losing a parent, though, creates a sense of loss that I have never experienced before now. There is this feeling of being alone that stays with you long after services are completed and friends and family have gone home. A song, a prayer, a memory, a word or phrase can all trigger unexpected sadness. I’m learning how to deal with it, and taking baby steps toward moving forward. One of the ways I move forward is to remember how my Dad was long before Alzheimer’s took over his mind.
My father was an extraordinary man, at least by my standards. He lost both of his parents at a very young age, and in his teen years, found himself at Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy as a resident through the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. He had both good and bad memories of that time of his life. The good was he was there with one of his sisters, Mildred, and they worked hard to stay in contact with their other two sisters. He became what we called a “self-made man.” He knew no other way to accomplish something other than hard work and discipline. He was never rich, never knew great fame, and would probably not be classified as “successful”. But the truth was, he was all of those things and so much more to the people who knew him and loved him as friends and family.
I choose to remember him as a loving father; someone who I shared Friday night dinners with when Mom was working. I choose to remember him as generous; he remembered his impoverished time as an orphan and was always making sure other children did not go without. I choose to remember him as a patriot; he served our country in both WWII and Korea, and he was a proud Navy veteran. I choose to remember him as a sports fan; He loved Tennessee football and basketball, Braves Baseball and the Lady Vols, and he taught the rest of us how to love them, too.
I choose to remember him as all these things and more because if I did not, the grief of losing him would be absolutely overwhelming. The remembrances of how Alzheimer’s robbed his speech, mind and body would be too painful. I choose instead to learn how to grieve by learning how to remember.