It is Friday evening. Thursday evening my husband received a phone call from an unknown number (and caller) with sad news. It is that experience that you never want to have. He told him that his good friend from graduate school had died the day before as the result of a heart attack. He gave him funeral arrangements and that was pretty much it. I received that call once. It was August 2004 and one of my closest friends had passed away. My husband handled his emotions much better than I did, and probably still would. This is the first time since we have been married that we have experienced a "shared" loss that has affected us so much.
This friend, D, has a four year old son who is his spitting image (except with hair, D was bald) and an 18 month old daughter. My heart breaks for these children and his wife who lost the most influential man in their lives at the young age of 42. My husband and I just sat in silence last night, me trying not to cry too much and get myself worked up well into what is normally my bedtime. Today was devastating for both of us. It is all we can think about, nothing else seems to matter. He will be leaving for Georgia this weekend to attend the funeral and service on our behalf. I just can't believe it.
But actually, I can…
My father passed away in his mid-30s after a battle with brain cancer that lasted about a year and a half. When he passed on April 27, 1992, I was two weeks from my seventh birthday, my sister was three and my brother was only 18 months. There is not much I remember about that time of my life and looking back I find that both a good and bad thing. I do remember coming home from school that day, seeing lots of cars at our house and being excited that my Dad had been released from the hospital. It was the opposite. I remember my reaction, but not actually hearing the news. Then it all goes blank.
As I have grown up, close friends have asked me, when appropriate, and not at all to make me mad, if I felt like it was "better to lose my Dad young or if I wish I had more years worth of memories with him?" "Do I think it would have been better (used very loosely of course) to lose him suddenly?" I'm still not sure how I feel about these questions, what my answers should be because they change. Because of my age, growing up with my mom as my single parent is something I was/am used to. I never really knew it to be any different. She over compensated for not having my Dad alive with us and did a hell of a job raising three children. I know D's wife will do much of the same as she finds the strength. Do I wish I had more memories, not ones from photos only, with my Dad? Of course! The chance to remember conversations and vacations with him? Of course! But do I think the heartache of losing a parent would be greater as an adult or teenager? Absolutely.
In reality, there isn't a "better" situation when a parent dies long before their time. I do believe that it is harder for the living spouse to cope than young children because everyone surrounds them with love and activities to keep them occupied during the immediate future and time of turmoil. But, being a parent myself and hearing William say to me "Mommy home, Mommy here," I can't imagine not being here. I can't imagine my husband not being here. God forbid anything happen to either of us, I hope he remembers us for the rest of his life. I hope I have taken (and been in) enough photos and videos so he can see our interaction and things we experienced together as a family.