Losing a parent is never easy. It means accepting that the constants in our lives – the parents who have always been there for us – are vulnerable and human.
Burying the first parent leaves an imbalance. The pair becomes one, and the sense of loneliness and loss is palpable. In many ways, it strengthens the parent-child bond. The parent who never handled finances before now needs help. The parent who never cooked in his life really enjoys sharing a home cooked meal. They come to depend on us just as we once relied on them for life’s basic necessities and the bonds of love.
As long as one of them was still alive, we could still visit the family home. We could still keep alive some of the traditions they established, even if they no longer understood or were aware of the meaning. But still we carried on for them.
When the second parent slips away, the tie is severed completely. It feels like a layer of childhood has just been peeled away, exposing the raw exterior of adulthood. For those of us who have been the “sandwich generation” we just lost one piece of bread. Life will never be the same.
My dad died almost 21 years ago. Mom was lost to us through Alzheimer’s years before her final exit, which was over three years ago now. Closing out her estate made it all so final.
But Rich’s father was still alive. We continued to have a link to the generation above us. As recently as this past Christmas we made sure to be with him for the holiday, delivering his favorite julekake for breakfast. A tradition that goes way, way back and he passed on to us.
His recent death brought that to an end. No longer do we have any parents on this earth. Two of them lived long enough to become great-grandparents. We had a good long string of generations going. We were very fortunate. We spanned close to a century. Suddenly, that range is a lot narrower.
It’s still to soon to comprehend. Life’s balance has shifted. But I don’t feel it yet. I’m still contemplating the passing of a generation.