When Natalie got killed many years ago there wasn’t anything anyone could say or do to make it right or make it feel better. It was going to be unpleasant because there wasn’t much of a silver lining to see. There still isn’t, there never will be because 21 is an awful young age to die for someone who should have come much closer to their life expectancy.
Some death is like that, unjust and tragic. It’s outside of the natural cycle of things and you do what you can to manage the whole thing. It will remain that bull shit event in the past and you may be able to manufacture a meaning out of it, but you’re just as likely to end up addicted to drugs to numb the pain. The waves of this type of death ripple forward into the future, carried along on impossible “what if” questions.
Cancer in someone who is almost 70 is not the same thing as dying at the wheel of a drunk driver at 21. Someone dying closer to their life expectancy is at worst unfair. The ripples from the death of a much older person are from the past and they’re good because they are the answers to the “what if” questions. Some think this too clinical, a little Vulcan, unkind or uncaring and I’m good with that. The thing about thoughts on how I should carry my business is that they aren’t of any consequence to the catalyst for in this situation. Cancer controlled what happened.
I had an honest and complete relationship with my father, I challenged him as a person and as a dad, I am not the same type of thinker as my father so he’s had to learn how to engage me as I have had to learn how to engage him, we always liked and respected each other and while there may have been things that we didn’t like about how the other acted, we cared enough about each other to not really care that much about those things and to actually learn why the other person felt or acted that way. We were not the same but we liked how the other was.
All of this is to say that my dad was a good guy who loved his family and friends and he had a great relationship with Des, my mom and me.
As adults we talked about a lot of the things people don’t really chat with their parents about. I asked my dad what it would be like to have a son die – unjust, unfair and something that he’d get past but never over. I asked him what it was like when his dad died – sad, a real existential struggle to piece together the rightness of his father and the wrongness of losing him at 60. I asked my dad what he thought the purpose of life was – I don’t know, I don’t think it has one other than what we give it. Try to have as much fun as you can without hurting others. Why didn’t you focus on making more money as opposed to focusing on delivering what you promise – because you’ll just spend the money and have to live with yourself for not being your best. What mistake did you always make – I didn’t stick at anything long enough to reap the rewards of being really good at it, once I did it, it got boring. What mistake do you always see me making – you feel the need to get into relationships. When you die, what do you want me to do – keep building the panel business, look after your mother, maybe be a little sad, but don’t dwell on things. Life was going to end, it has to. The world doesn’t need that many old people.
I laugh at the last answer a lot. My dad knew he had his run and that it would end eventually. He was satisfied with it. At the end it was peaceful. A comfortable wind down chatting with the people he cared about, eating great food and maintaining the perspective that his time had come and that it is good to not linger when it does.