A Daughter’s Gift to her Dying Father

My daughter-in-law Lauren knows what it is to grieve during the holidays, so I was thrilled that she was willing to write a piece for Communicating Across Boundaries. If you know someone who is grieving this Christmas I urge you to send it on. You will feel sad, hopeful, and full of joy all in the space of two minutes. And that is what grieving is like, and what makes it so complicated.

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Dad and I Wedding

My father was diagnosed with cancer mid-August, and was gone early January.

So Christmas season was awful, to say the least. I knew this would be his last Christmas. My last time to ever give a gift to my dad. But what do you get a man dying of stage 4 cancer? What earthly possessions does he need? I racked my brain trying to think of something meaningful that also wouldn’t remind him of how little time left he would have with the gift.

My dad LOVED the band “Yes”. I mean he loved all rock and roll, but he had a special connection to this band. He and my mom went to over 30 of their concerts in their time together. I grew up listening to them and have fond memories of sitting on his lap as a little girl and him trying to teach me one of their songs. And also trying real hard to impress him but I’m terrible at memorizing lyrics and my dad would try to hide his frustration with a tight smile and a “let’s try it again”. The lead singer, Jon Anderson, now in his 70’s, truly has a voice that is not of this world. It’s heartbreaking and angelic and bad-ass, and it’s just everything.

So I decided to take a (reallllll) shot in the dark and email Jon’s publicist to see if I could possibly get in touch with him. My first email back from his publicist made my heart drop. He told me he would do the best he could, but could not promise anything. To even know there was a sliver of hope – was so meaningful to me in that time of such despair. And a few days later, a little gift arrived in my inbox. It’s crazy to me that such an email sits with all other emails of stupid significance like how much money I could save that day at Ulta Cosmetics. But there it was. A subject that read, “Jon Anderson here..”. I couldn’t open it quick enough. This man who was such an idol to my dad, and had such an impact on my youth, had written to me.

Here is what it read. In the exact format, because for some reason, it’s significant to me.

Hi Lauren, please send my best love to your father..

.I will send something…send me his name, and an address…..

our ‘souls’ are eternal…and angels will be with him to help him into the next world..

Love and light…Jon….

The card itself held a beautiful message to my father. It was intended for my father, so to hold it’s sanctity, I won’t share it here. But watching my father open up the card on Christmas day was an experience unlike any others. I was weeping before I even gave it to him. I think I was feeling everything. The pride I had to be his daughter, the sadness I had to know this was my last time to write “to: dad, love: Lauren”, or the anticipation to see the look on his face when he read his personalized message.

The last days before he died, the reality that I couldn’t save my father, weighed heavy on me. And although I couldn’t save him – I had no control – this man’s generosity and spirit, gave me the opportunity to have a little bit of control. To brighten his last days, to assure him that he was so loved by all and connected to the world even though he had one foot out.

This year, during the holidays, I am trying to just be aware. Aware of everything. To not shut out any memories of him but also to not feel guilty about feeling joy. I want to know what it’s like to not just miss him, but know what to do with that feeling. To use it in ways like Jon used his grace towards my dad. To transfer all that energy into something good and meaningful.

So to my fellow grievers, I wish you a day of peace and stillness, that we may contemplate what it means to have ‘eternal souls’ but still be present on this day.

7 thoughts on “A Daughter’s Gift to her Dying Father

  1. Well, Lauren, you just figured out what to do! Your story has graced me.
    This was my fathers last Christmas and I just arrived for the New Year. Thanks for this!

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  2. I so appreciated this, because it’s so mysteriously and miraculously true. Both my husband’s parents are dead. He thinks of them much more during the holidays, and he talks often about his good memories. Yet somehow, he is not overwhelmingly sad, he is joyful.

    He knows all too well what it is like to have his grief for his parents outlawed — which is, in itself, a grief all its own. When he talks about them, he misses them, yes, but expressing it allows him, paradoxically, to also experience joy in the season. This doesn’t make any earthly sense, I know, but it has been our experience of the mingling of grief and joy in the Christmas season.

    Thank you for writing this, Lauren.

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  3. I am remembering my last Christmas with my husband, 2009, when we listened together to Handel’s “Messiah”. The next day he was back in hospital very poorly, but we did have a wonderful Christmas Day.

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  4. Beautiful. Those who have suffered grief understand. Holding on to precious memories shared with a loved one during life together bind us together in such ways that after death the loved one remains a presence. There will be joy. And that is as it should be.

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