Write Your Grief: Dad Edition.
So much wasted time.
David Cassidy said it first and it was so very sad. Those were his last words before passing in 2017.
His daughter, Katie Cassidy, shared those words with the world and added, “This will be a daily reminder for me to share my gratitude with those I love as to never waste another minute….thank you.”
When I heard A and E had done a documentary series called, “David Cassidy: The Last Session”, I knew I’d want to watch it.
I watched it and admit it was hard to watch. It was fun to see him reflect on his happy memories, but he was obviously a very sick man with a lot of sadness and a great deal of regret. It made me think of my dad.
Cassidy had announced to the world that he had dementia but later confessed to A&E that he had liver disease and that he had no signs of having dementia. That was two months before his death.
So Much Wasted Time
That statement, “So much wasted time” had been popping up in my head all week as the seven-year anniversary of my father’s death had been quickly approaching.
I felt there was a little voice urging me… “Write it, do it, share a little bit of your story”.
Today is the anniversary, so today is the day.
Grama’s One and Only
My dad was everything to my “Grama” from day 1. He was the apple of her eye, her little sailor (she loved the Navy), and moreover, after losing her daughter at birth, her reason for living.
Grama was a very hands-on mom who had him involved in everything.
He served as an altar boy at St. Callistus Church in El Sobrante, California, rarely missing a mass, and was involved in the church youth group, scouting, and also played in the orchestra at DeAnza High School as well.
She loved her life as his mother, and he seemed to be one lucky kid!
Mom and Dad were married in the Catholic church (naturally) and moved to Napa, California in 1969. They had three children together; Susan, Kimberly, and Michael. (They were very happy when they finally had their boy!).
Sadly, their marriage ended in divorce.
Dad had a few other ladies in his life through the years and married my stepmom Kathy in 1983.
Dad and Kathy were married for over thirty years. So when Dad died in 2013, Kathy and I teamed up to write a very thorough obituary in his honor. I even asked Mom about a few things to verify we were covering all of the bases and getting all of the early dates right. Kathy kindly included my mom by name in his obituary which was a very sweet and appreciated gesture.
His obituary covered many things. We gushed about his long tenure at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, talked about his stamp collecting and his growing up years. Then we spoke of his silly humor, his love of animals and how he was a great neighbor.
And finally, we talked about how smart he was and how proud we were that he was able to share one final gift upon his passing: the gift of sight through the donation of his corneas.
But we didn’t talk about his alcoholism.
We didn’t mention how his alcoholism caused issues and distance with his children and other family members.
We didn’t write about those things or any other negative behaviors, because that is not how one normally writes an obituary for a loved one.
But there truly was so much wasted time… just like David Cassidy.
Loss and Sadness
Dad left us with a lot of hurts, a lot of questions, a lot of regrets, and a lot of sadness.
The sadness wasn’t because he hurt us, the sadness was because we loved him despite his faults… and we still do.
We try to remember his great qualities, his rather “gross” sense of humor (which lives on through my brother), and his great laugh.
He was very intelligent and had this calming sense about him that could easily defuse the toughest of situations. I think that’s what made him such a great leader at work.
One Last Gathering
During the summer of 2012, just seven months before Dad’s passing, we did something we hadn’t done for many years. We gathered together as a family to celebrate my sister Susie’s birthday.
My mom invited Dad and Kathy to join us and we had a great time. Mom’s home is often the destination for special gatherings, and this one was no exception.
The whole immediate family was together: our parents and stepmom, kids, spouses, and grandkids. We had no idea it would be the last time we would all be together in that way, but it was. We now know Mom invited Dad and Kathy to join us for a reason even though she didn’t know it; It was meant to be.
As was pretty common with Dad, he usually had a “late” birthday or Christmas gift with him when seeing the grandkids. And this day was no different.
This time he was delivering a belated birthday gift for my niece Hailea and it included TWO summer dresses. Well, just as quickly as she was able to open the bag, she and her sister Breanne were BOTH wearing new dresses.
They loved the dresses and we had a great time in Mom’s backyard that day. Her yard backs up to Napa Valley vineyards which is beautiful and always provides us with the BEST backdrop for photos on “the swing” – (everyone’s favorite spot).
We took a very special picture that day.
No More Wasted Time
When we lose someone, grief comes in many ways. Some feel sadness, some regret, some resentment. All of the things “we” didn’t know, or the words we didn’t get to say can be truly haunting and can feel toxic and debilitating.
The best pieces of advice I can share via what I’ve learned in my own experiences with grief and from others are:
- Write Your Grief. That is not new advice but can sure be helpful. (Thus, today’s post). Get a journal, type away on your computer, etc. The options are endless.
- If you are thinking of approaching a loved one who is sick with great ideas and suggestions, “Please be careful of your expectations”. When I invited my dad to go to lunch to celebrate his 70th birthday with Susie, Michael and me a few months before he died, he said no and I was devastated. He was sick but hadn’t been to the doctor… and just didn’t feel up to the visit (we had no idea he was dying nor did he, but he had assumptions). I had had a visual in my mind of how the phone call would go and my expectations were really high. I set myself up for disappointment and have shared that piece of advice and experience many times. (This is helpful in so many areas of life! Thank you to the person who gave me that advice – you know who you are).
- Hug a friend and cry it out. Not everyone knows how to approach you or how to offer a shoulder, but if someone asks you how you’re doing and you feel that person is “safe”, share what’s in your heart.
- Remember that your story isn’t necessarily everybody else’s story. Realize that YOUR story is YOUR personal reflection and YOUR grief. That doesn’t mean others in your family see things exactly as you do or that they grieve the same way. Be as kind as you can, even though you are hurting and may not understand their view.
- Try your best to let things go. We can’t control how we feel and need to feel our grief, and we can’t control when it surfaces again out of nowhere, but we can follow the advice I was given by a counselor shortly after Dad’s death. She said, “It’s okay to wish things had been different, but don’t stay there too long.” In other words, acknowledge your “I wish” or your sadness, take a moment to reflect, and then because you can’t change anything at this point, try to let it go.
And if nothing else, perhaps we can all follow Katie’s advice shared above as she was reflecting on her dad David Cassidy’s final words, “My father’s last words were “So much wasted time”. This will be a daily reminder for me to share my gratitude with those I love as to never waste another minute….thank you.
Wise advice Katie.
Grief is never an easy chapter in life. Never forget that life is a gift. 🙂
Miss you and love you Dad.
One more thing…
If you enjoyed this article and could relate, you might also enjoy my poem, “I Just Don’t Remember”. My emotional take on growing up with our dad living somewhere else.
Do you have a “grief story” to share or advice that you feel others would find helpful? Please feel free to comment below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. (You know I love stories).