I Honor and Respect Those Who Died on or Because of the Tragedy Connected to this Date But…
For most of the world, 9/11 has a particular significance which most, I trust can appreciate. In 2001, it was certainly a day which will live in infamy and which set off more than one chain of events, some actually for the good. I know it brought neighbors and strangers together, if only for a little while, yet it’s sad that it took tragedy to bring out human kindness and simple courtesy.
On 9/11/01, my daughters were one day shy of 14 and, like the rest of the nation, watched the news casts with horror and sadness and not a few tears. Having such a horrific event the day before their birthday certainly put a damper on that year’s celebration, and sits in our minds every year at this time, if only because there are so many reminders.
But 9/11/01, though a national tragedy and a series if events it is impossible to forget, and necessary to remember on some levels only makes the events of 9/11/03 so much harder; only makes the day before their 16th birthday an even bigger tragedy for us and one which we are reminded of with great pomp and circumstance every single year.
On 9/11/03, after considering the implications of a diagnosis of lung cancer, my father made a decision. Many years before, he had watched his mother die of lung cancer, and though he was an adult with a family of his own, I know the experience scarred him. In fact, it was one of the few times I ever saw him cry and at ten years old, it was a very frightening sight. So when he learned that his fate could well be the same as his mother’s, and the helplessness and misery he experienced as he watched his mother fade from an active, vibrant woman to a gasping shell, could similarly scar his daughters and grandchildren, he made the ultimate sacrifice, with the best, most loving of intentions and took his own life.
To this day, I don’t believe he considered the timing; the fact that it was 2 years after terrorists forced planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or that his granddaughters would be 16 the next day, a magical, all-important birthday for young girls. He simply thought that he had to leave us the ultimate gift of love; not having to watch him die an agonizing death.And now, 12 years later, California has made it legal to assist someone with a terminal illness to end their life with dignity. The irony of the timing is not lost on me.
As luck would have it, Dad shared the date he died with John Ritter so the media circus was even more pronounced on a day which for me and my two almost-sixteen-year-old daughters passed in a blur of pain and shock.But we were not so lucky in the days which followed when Dad’s true cause of death was revealed to me bluntly and abruptly. Though well-meaning, the friends who had shown up at my door to advise me of his passing had, in all fairness, probably been unable to share that bit of information though he’d left a note for the woman he spent time with, and left more telling evidence on the chair where they found him. It wasn’t until she said something about getting the stain out of the chair that she deemed it necessary to explain that stain.
We Move on and Yet, We Don’t
Thanks to my writing and blogging, I have worked through the feelings my dad’s suicide unleashed and in so doing, found love, compassion and understanding. Even so, I seem to come back to this every single year, and that’s because I’m a mom. When I see my daughter suffering, it isn’t my own pain which causes me to face that day 13 years ago again, it’s hers. Though I’m not sure exactly where on the grief continuum she is now, I know that some of the pain of losing her beloved Grandpa is still fresh. Because my daughter hurts, I hurt too, but for her, for the pain which has not yet eased to a bearable level and for the timing of that loss which can never be altered or erased. If I could give her one gift on her birthday this September 12th, it would be peace. For now, all I can give her is love and understanding, and a few shared memories of the man we both loved and who told us in his own way that we were loved too. I am grateful that so many of those memories revolve around the sense of humor we both inherited from him.
My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for the years we had with my dad and the laughter which time, pain and sadness can never erase.
2. I am grateful for my writing as it has given me perspective and healing.
3. I am grateful for the sense of community which came out of 9/11/01. We’ve shown ourselves we can do it in the face of great tragedy. Now we can show ourselves that we can make it something more lasting, and without any excuses.
4. I am grateful for the pets who comfort us when sadness has to creep in, even if only for a little while. And I’m grateful for the things we love which help distract us until the moment passes.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, friendship, sharing, community, blessings, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy and prosperity.