One Last Chance

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge: “Hindsight is 20-20.”

Every morning before I get out of bed, I roll over and look at my phone. I scroll through junk email and check out my friend’s Facebook posts. In the last year, I installed an app called Timehop that allows me to look back over the last 6 years I have been on Facebook to see what I have posted on this day in history. Since the past 6 years have been life altering, it’s always interesting to see where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.

This morning as I scrolled back, I found a post from 5 years ago today that stated, “Remembering Father Dave from the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Kennett Square, who passed away overnight. He baptized Max and I will truly miss his down to earth attitude, great sense of humor, and his ability to make a jaded Catholic find her way back inside a church.” Within minutes, I was crying for a man I barely knew and a missed opportunity that has haunted me for years.

Putting it all in perspective, please understand, on this day 5 years ago, I was approaching the 6 month anniversary of my brother’s death and my first Christmas without him. Approximately 10 days before, I had a confrontation with a “family member” regarding their lack of support in the 6 months prior. When I say lack of support, I mean I literally had not even received a sympathy card, phone call or email inquiring about my well-being, which was very far from well. I was peaking in my grief. The numbness had long worn off and I was in the throes of pain, anger and despair. I didn’t think I could go on.

After the confrontation, I walked into my mother’s house and cried as if I was kneeling at the base of the Wailing Wall, complete with the rocking back and forth. My mother and sister sat next to me, watching this spectacle and then told me I needed to stop. I need to stop crying, stop blaming, stop not living and learn to move on. I couldn’t believe that my mother; a woman who had buried her child could say that to me, but she did. I needed to find some peace.

I had contemplated before this “come to Jesus” moment that I needed to “go to Father Dave” (the most obvious, next choice) to look for answers. Therapy wasn’t enough in that moment. I needed my soul to heal, if I even had one left.

I hesitated in contacting Father Dave, not knowing if I could bear what little was left of my soul and tell him how broken I was. I’m guessing I would have needed to say very little at that point, since I felt like I looked like I was wearing a permanent body cast. I wore my grief, not just on my sleeve, but on every part of my body.

I allowed my deeply ingrained, perhaps misguided, understanding of religion, born from a Catholic upbringing to win out in the intellectual vs. emotional war that was raging inside me. As a Catholic, I believed that death was a silent part of life to be experienced by the survivors in a quiet, reserved manner. It didn’t help that I was harboring an enormous amount of resentment towards the Catholic priest that referred to my brother as an “80 year old man who had lived a long and full life”.  (Note to Catholic priests….it helps to read the background, at the very least, on the person you are burying.)

I knew Father Dave was not the Catholic church or a Catholic priest. In fact, his easy going, engaging, Catholic-lite Episcopalian approach drew me back into the church when Max was a toddler and the guilt of not having had him baptized was outweighing my disdain for organized religion. I found the rituals of my youth comforting when delivered by a man who truly understood how to make God relevant in my own life. And yet, I could not go see him after Ralph died.

I learned of Father Dave’s death in an email sent out by the church while I was at work. I remember sitting there and feeling the pit of my stomach drop. My mourning was tripled; my brother, Father Dave and a chance to find some peace with him as my conduit.

This is one of my greatest regrets. I regret letting my fear, anger and grief win out over peace and love. Maybe, I wasn’t ready. But I wasn’t ready to lose my opportunity with Father Dave either.

I’ve learned many, many lessons over the last 5 1/2 years. Showing gratitude is one. Being vulnerable is another. I wish I could have been vulnerable enough to go to Father Dave and have him offer me some comfort that I couldn’t find anywhere else at the time. I needed my soul to heal. I needed God. And at the time I needed Father Dave to hand God to me, tied up with a nice little bow. Maybe that is naive but I don’t care. It’s my story.

Today, I find gratitude in little things. I practice vulnerability more freely. I take risks. I thank people. I tell people when I’m disappointed. I own my shit. I work everyday to be a little more whole than the day before.

But I still miss Father Dave.

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