It’s over, all but the aftermath. Which isn’t ever really over, just the New Normal. The priest at my dad’s funeral mass told us not to believe that time heals all wounds. I don’t and haven’t and was glad to hear a Holy Man whose business is Hope say the same.

I wrote my dad’s eulogy, and one of the things I said was, “My dad has suffered the deaths of two of his grandchildren, two who should be here to mourn him, but instead are there to greet him,” and that “We take an anguished comfort that Nicole and Philip are with you.” I think that last might not be true. I think there’s no comfort I take from Philip’s death. Plenty of people die without their kids or grandkids or whoever else they thought would outlive them not being “there” first. It is our elders who should pave the way.

That’s two “shoulds” in one paragraph. I don’t believe in “shoulds,” even if I feel them. This is what Death does. It forces you to look at your beliefs and assumptions and what you took for granted vs. Real-Time Reality. When I start “shoulding” it means I’ve not been paying attention. And even now I find myself clucking and disbelieving every time someone shoots themselves in the head after shooting their girlfriend in the head and why do I do that? Is there any form of terror or degradation left that is still shocking or stunning?

But maybe it’s good that we can be shocked. Maybe that’s our humanity, maybe that’s the best part of us, the part that wants peace more than fear or anger. The part that recognizes that we can feel just as violent as the next guy – “God! Did he really just do that?!?!? I could kill him!” – but we really wouldn’t want to back up most of what we say about someone when we forget the someone we’re referring to is part of that humanity. We are the recipient of whatever kindness and humanity we offer.

Dad, Philip, Nicole – again and always, rest in peace. You are loved and missed. I promised you I would find my own peace. I am not so sure now. It’s my hurt and restless heart I’m trying to listen to but I can’t always hear what it’s saying.

I haven’t written much this week – understandable, but I couldn’t figure out how to continue because I kept thinking, “I have to get back to it. How do I get back to it? Where was I?” But I’m not going back to anything; I’m going forward. I’ll continue to write from now, and the New Now is that my dad has died.

I think I left off  that first night, balled up in my couch, holding on for my goddamn life. Freefalling down the rabbit hole. I don’t know if or when I hit bottom, but I do know I got off the couch. More on that next.

© 2013 Denise Smyth



Neither Philip or Natalie were “there” for all of my life. But loving someone can do strange things to the space-time continuum. It’s hard to remember I had a life before my children. I can remember scenes, of course, but I don’t remember what I felt like then, how I lived without the love that has both brought me to my knees and given me a reason not to stay there. Phil told me about a friend of his who lost her son. She has a place where she’s set some things of his, and every morning she spends some time with him. Then she gets up and lives her life, reminding herself she had a life without him even when he was alive. Phil used that as a model.

But we all bring what we bring to the situations in our lives. There is a sameness to I-lost-a-son-and-you-lost-a-son. But it’s circumstantial, is all. We aren’t each other and we didn’t lose each other’s sons. And maybe you were pretty damn satisfied about where you thought you were headed, maybe you had a sustainable marriage or work that made you feel useful and productive or a burning desire to do x, y or z with the time that you had that was free for choosing.

I was trying to figure all of that out, and when it was hard or I got scared because I felt so alone, I’d think, “I have my kids.” They were my place to rest. But that place has to be my place; that place cannot depend on who is or isn’t here or what anyone does or doesn’t do.  Yesterday I said that Philip’s love is mine and so it doesn’t leave. Not so with my peace of mind. Maybe just not yet.

On Sunday I read something someone had written for her mom on Mother’s Day. She’d written the standard, “You were always there, etc.,” but not just because it’s what you say. It’s because – and this was clear – she meant it. Her mom meant to her, and she wanted her mom to know. But all I could think of when I read that was Philip. I might have been “here” first, but I wasn’t here the way I was after he was born. I want to say to him, ‘You were always with me,” because he’s just as gone as if he had been.

My dad died. On Mother’s Day, around 11:30 or so. His heart was so very tired. Today is his birthday – He would’ve been 83. It’s also my parents’ anniversary. 58 years, I think? I have to check.

My dad loved to bowl. Laura, Philip’s ex and good friend, knew my dad. She sent me a text that read, “It’s comforting that he will be able to spend time with Philip…they can bowl together.” For whatever reason, I laughed; how good to laugh. And Nicole, go join in and kick their asses!

Dad, Philip, Nicole. I love you, we all love you. And what we wish most is for you all to rest in peace. We will try to do the same. We need time, so be patient with us. We’ll get there. I promise.

© 2013 Denise Smyth