This week I have been super aware of the fact that at this time last year we were in the midst of Dad's death. I am not sure exactly how I feel as we approach this anniversary. I do know that from this time forward the first week of December will always be the week I celebrate Mum's birth on the first and remember Dad's death on the 5th. Such a world-wind of emotions.
Throughout the past week I have been put in the position to practice compassion and empathy on several occasions. The most obvious of which was on the morning of December 1st, when I attended N's honor's breakfast at school. This was N's first opportunity to gain 'honor roll' status. Having never been to the breakfast before I arrived early. I walked into the cafeteria and acclimated to the environment. The student's were not there yet and I didn't recognize any of the parents. I grabbed a cup of coffee and a donut and found a seat at a table to the back of the room. Not long after I sat down, a stranger approached and asked if the seat next to me was taken. There were many other available seats and tables but I invited this woman to take a seat and join me at the table. It was evident from the moment that this woman sat down that something was going on with her as she looked visably upset and distracted. Almost immediately she began telling her story. She had rushed to get ready that morning so she could attend her daughter's honors breakfast. Her hair was still wet from a hasty shower and she went on to explain that immediately after the breakfast she had to go to the local hospital to be with her father as his breathing tube and other supports were being removed. She teared up as she recounted the details. Immediately I felt on edge and wanted to be anywhere other than in that seat listening to this story but in my mind I could hear the words compassion and empathy and knew I was where I was meant to be. She went on to tell me that her mother was also dying and in the care of hospice. I told her how sorry I was and that I understood. I explained that this week last year my father had died and that it was my Mum's birthday and she had been gone for ten years. At this point both of us had tears in our eyes. She grabbed my hand and held it for a moment. More stories were told of difficult siblings and challenging demands. This was not the experience I had expected or wanted that morning but it was the experience I had for a reason. Perhaps I was one of the few people who would have continued to sit with this stranger as she shared her burden. While I wanted to get up and choose another seat, I couldn't do that to her. Sometimes it is easier to find comfort in a stranger. I hope that in some small way I was helpful to this divorced mother of four who was preparing to lose her father that day. Life is so strange.
So this weekend I will continue to practice empathy and compassion as I walk through the memories of last year. I will do my best to be kind and gentle with myself and allow the emotions to come. I will sit with them until they go and then I will do something to honor the memory of my father.
He was a good man. He is missed.