Like yesterday’s post, today’s post is about losing a parent before getting married. But what Sheryl shows us is that even though certain experiences may seem similar on the outside, the way we deal with life’s upheavals can be completely different from one person to another. More importantly though, I think Sheryl boils down what partnership is in its most pure form: letting go of the plan and doing what needs to be done for your family.
Somehow, I was out of bed, dressed and packing up the dog and an overnight bag before I even knew what was happening. A phone call at 4:42 in the morning comes with the implicit assumption that something is wrong. Hearing Bunny’s end of the conversation, his voice strained and giving only one word answers, quickly confirmed that. The next thing either of us remembers, we were hurtling down the highway, faster than I’ve ever know him to drive. As he filled me in on the details of the call, my stomach worked itself into knots that had me leaning out the passenger window and painting the side of the truck.
Wednesday night we had gone to bed with our world perfectly ordered. Jobs weren’t particularly forthcoming for either of us, but we had my cushy savings and his freelance hours to rely on. We lived in an adorable town house that we loved in a beautiful co-op with a great community, and were planning on staying there for another five years. We’d finally started hanging up our artwork and everything. We’d been scrimping and saving for a perfect-to-us, tiny fall wedding with just our very nearest and dearest invited, and with small but meaningful details. We were even talking very seriously about babies, much to his father’s delight and my mother’s horror.
By the time we arrived at the hospital, less than an hour later, it was pretty clear that none of our carefully laid plans mattered at all. The rest of that day is mostly a blur, filled with words like “severe stroke” and “basal artery,” waiting on tests and scans, hopes raised and dashed until finally there was a confirmed conclusion: no brain stem activity. For twelve hours, I wandered hospital halls like a ghost who wasn’t sure where it belonged. That afternoon, Bunny’s father died surrounded by extended family and friends.
I can’t even tell you the number of ways our hearts broke that day. I won’t even try it’s so impossible.
In the next days, our lives changed completely. There was no going home; we needed to be near our families. So we camped out with his momma (and then mine). We slept (or tried to) and sat and stared at TV screens and cleaned and nodded politely when people talked to us and made decisions at funerals homes. Time passed, slower than I’d ever known it could. Bunny and I drove back to our home in Toronto that we have been slowly making our own, but only to pack more clothes, clean out the fridge, and check on the cat.
Family and friends descended on the house, and we barely had a chance to breathe. It was overwhelming. Love, I’ve been coming to realize, can be like that. Through the crowds, I wandered from room to room, first checking on Bunny, then his mother, then his sister and her (now) husband, and his niece before working my way back to Bunny. Over and over. I had loved Bunny’s family since the day they moved in next door when I was eight, and his dad had been more of a father to me than my own. I was as lost as anyone else there. In those first few days, I knew that my world had changed. What I didn’t know was how much.
It’s said a fair bit around here, but it’s worth repeating, that weddings and funerals tend to be the only time that entire families end up together, in the same place at the same time. The perfect fall wedding Bunny and I had been crafting for ourselves, were in love with, but oddly reluctant to commit to, was so small that it would have excluded all but the most immediate of family. A few days after his dad died, Bunny started scheming up a new wedding. With only twenty guests planned, his father’s absence loomed over the event. Nothing will ever fill the gap that he has left, and there is no escaping the fact that his father will be missed there, but it suddenly became clear that we needed to be surrounded by as much love as we could manage on that day. We needed to give our family an event to celebrate, and a reason to be happy. Somehow, terrified-of-crowds me is having a massive wedding. (Well, a massive post-wedding party, but still.)
With that decided, suddenly, time sped up. Instead of sitting around, numb, our minds were churning and buzzing. Death has a way of forcing you to examine your priorities and whether your life lines up with them. Things we had discussed in a hazy, one day in the future manner grew in our minds. More than anything, Bunny needed change. All the things we had been saying about one day living closer to our families, about wanting a less hectic life outside Toronto, about wanting backyards and friendly neighbours became much more immediate and important for both of us. We couldn’t give ourselves more time with his father, but we could rearrange our lives to spend more time with and be closer to the rest of our family. We decided to make those changes a priority, for within the year.
When life throws changes at you, though, it doesn’t really care about your timelines.
On a whim a week later, Bunny decided to hand out a couple resumés in the town our parents live in. He hadn’t had much luck finding work in his industry in Toronto, so we figured it couldn’t hurt to look elsewhere. On his first day out, he came home with a job at a small, local mechanic’s shop that he couldn’t be more thrilled about. The only issue? We’d have to move. Immediately.
At that point, all we could do was swim with the current. The changes we had discussed in the abstract were happening now. Luckily, we have a pretty laid-back attitude to these sort of major upheavals, and since everything in our lives was pushing us in one direction we decided to jump feet first into the change. The next day I asked my mother if we could move in with her until we found our own place, and began clearing out her basement. We’ve since given notice at the co-op, and we are looking for someplace more permanent than the basement.
Two weeks after it all began, our heads are still spinning. Our lives have been turned upside down, but what we are moving towards is far more in line with our values and our dreams than the life we’re leaving behind. Nothing could have ever prepared us for all these changes, but as long as we have each other we can take anything life throws at us.
Photo By: Kelly Benvenuto (APW Sponsor)