This post isn’t specifically about chronic illness, but it is about life and death, and what the really important things in life are.
On Monday (August 11th, my 29th birthday) there was a terrible storm and terrible flooding in Michigan. Nobody had seen anything like it before. Basements in all of the communities surrounding Detroit were flooded to varying degrees.
While my family’s basement was flooded and nearly everything had to be thrown away, we lost something much more important and irreplaceable.
My Dad was coming home from work, about 45 minutes away from home. He called my Mom to tell her that he was driving to higher ground to wait out the storm. He never came home and the police found him dead in his car on Tuesday. He had found higher ground, was away from the water, and we don’t really know what happened other than the fact that he is gone.
I would have understood a bit more if he had been caught in the water and was overcome by it. But the fact that he died, alone in the car, makes it so much worse.
My Dad was missing for almost 24 hours, but I can’t imagine the anguish it would have caused if he had been missing for much longer, or he would not have been found at all.
Although we don’t truly know what happened, I don’t know what would have happened if he had just vanished.
I always thought that nothing worse could happen to me when I was diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses at the age of 22, but I was so wrong. This is so much worse. I have never felt more pain – and the kind of pain – that I feel right now.
It’s hard for me to sit here and write, but I feel like I have to. Life is crazy and finite and totally unexplainable.
These are the words that my sister and I wrote and had the Rabbi read at my Dad’s funeral. To me, they will never be adequate in describing what our Dad meant to us, but for now, in this time of grieving and uncertainty, they will have to suffice:
What do you say when a life is cut short? What do you say when you lose one of the most important people in your life? There truly are no words to express our deep sadness right now. Our dad was a family man in every sense of the word. He put his family before anything else and for that we will always be truly grateful. Leslie, myself, and our whole family cannot imagine life without his contagious smile and his humor, which we didn’t always find funny. He laughed at the stupidest things with Aunt Nancy and his red face always made it look like he would burst at the seams. This past week I was able to take a selfie with him and my Bubbie, and he thought it was the coolest thing ever. That is what we are trying to remember. While we are trying to think of all of the good memories, we cannot comprehend all the events he will miss in the future. This senseless tragedy has rocked us to the core. We will no longer have our partner-in-crime, our math tutor, or our almost genius father (as Bubbie likes to think). Our dad would want to be remembered for his smile, his laughter, the times he viewed the cup half full, and for the mark he left on this world. He would also be touched by the outpouring of love and support from all of you. We intend to carry on his legacy to the best of our ability and while grief has overcome us, we will soon celebrate his life and the everlasting pieces of him we have in our hearts.
My dad didn’t always like everyone, but it is clear that almost everyone who knew him liked him as is evidence by the fact that the funeral was standing room only.
My dad didn’t need material possessions. His family was his number one priority.
I never saw my dad more upset except when his dad died in December. This makes this situation even more unfair because he was still in mourning the death of his own father, and now we are mourning the loss of him.
Part of me wants to walk around in a shirt that says, “My Dad Died,” as if that explains everything. I have always felt horrible about the death of my boyfriend’s mother from cancer five years ago, but I truly never imagined that I would lose a parent at this age.
Humans are flawed beings. When something happens, we pledge that we won’t make the same mistake again. We promise to love more and let people know we love them, we promise we’ll call more, and talk more. And then we don’t follow through because we think that life won’t throw us any more curveballs.
And this time, I am pledging not to make the same mistakes. I will make sure that those I love know that I love them.
I don’t know how life will ever be the same again. Right now I’m trying to just do more than stare at the wall.
Some people say that you don’t get dealt anything in life that you can’t handle, but I don’t really think that’s true in regards to this situation.
I don’t believe in much right now; I don’t even know what I believe in right now.
I always thought that I’d be about 60 years old before I had to say the Jewish mourning prayer, but I’m 29, and my sister is 19, and we have joined a club that we would rather not be a part of.
I understand why in ancient times people ripped their clothes and flogged themselves in times of crisis and despair. My life is in shambles right now and I don’t know how long it will take to pick up the pieces.
One thing that has amazed me during this time is finding out so many young people have lost parents who, to me, seem so normal and well-adjusted, and I never would have imagined that they had been through something like this.
When I got sick, I had to find a new normal. And now, for a very different reason, I have to find another new normal.
I try to remind myself that I am not the only person this has ever happened to.
And I share all of this with you because this community has supported me so much in the past, and I am counting on you to be here for me during this most difficult time.
For people who would like more information, you can visit:
Neal Barry Rott, December 17, 1951 – August 12, 2014
Day one of our basement clean out. But in the end, it’s just stuff.
Day two of our basement clean out. But in the end, it’s just stuff.
CreakyJoints extends its deepest and heartfelt condolences to Leslie on the loss of her father