James D. Seitz
On Saturday, July 30, 2016, at 11:33am, my fantastic father-in-love James D. Seitz finished his battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 82 years old. I loved him dearly. I am not loving something about the response to his death, so I’m writing.
Three years ago, the Hubs and I moved the kiddos down to Naples to help out with Jim’s care. He and Grace allowed us the honor of being a real part of this journey and, while I won’t lie and say it was anywhere in the same ballpark as easy, I’m glad we did. I’m happy we got that time with him, that my kiddos know the amazing grandfather they had, that my mother-in-love and I grew closer as we cared for the love of her life, the man she was married to for 55 years.
Now, most of my Facebook friends are actual friends. They’re people I went to school with, have worked or volunteered with. A few are readers of my novels and I have the gift of their feedback and input as I write additional stories. The folks I call “Facebook Friend” are mostly real relationships. So, rather than call a lot of people and repeat our news, I posted on Facebook that Jim had passed.
And I got the expected “Sad” and “Love” clicks (thank you) and kind comments from people. It’s been helpful to receive all that, to not feel as if our little family is alone, to realize that a lot of people are acknowledging that a good man’s life has ended.
But something that has kinda driven me insane is how people barely get the, “I’m so sorry,” out before they jump to, “But you’ll see him again in heaven.”
I’ve done this exact same thing to friends who lose people to death. I’ve done it a lot, even from the moment we were told Jim needed to go into hospice care. Emotion overwhelmed my mother-in-love and husband, so I’m the one who tried to give Jim the news. He read it on my face before I could speak and said, “I’m going to heaven aren’t I?”
I responded, “Yessir, and I’m a little jealous.”
So, yes, I get the instinct to focus on the positive (heaven!) and brush right past the hideous (death). But, I want to go on record as saying I really don’t like it.
I’m a processor. I need time to process, reflect, think, ponder, be quiet and still before I feel as if I can move past a significant emotion. Right now, I hurt. A lot. I’m sad. I miss Jim – even the one who couldn’t speak because Parkinson’s stole his voice. I miss how he always, always smiled when I came into the room. I miss having someone in my life who wanted to hear every single, solitary detail of every single business trip or event I participated in. I miss the one who enjoyed listening to who came with whom and who wore what to this film premiere or that gala. I miss the man who knew the backstories of so many influencers in this town – how they became the people they are today. I want to hear his stories again of chairing balls and functions and how to navigate Board member and funder relationships. I want to ask him a question and see him turn his head, look off in the distance, and give my inquiry real thought before responding with some piece of wisdom I couldn’t have found otherwise. I’ve missed all this for a long time because Parkinson’s took it away but I couldn’t mourn it because we all had to focus on the care required by that moment, that hour. Now that he’s gone all of what was taken by this disease hits at once and I miss him.
I miss him.
I don’t care right now about heaven. I really don’t. I care that right now, today, I can’t go up to his bed, kiss the top of his head, and say, “Hello, blue eyes. I love you.” I care that my mother-in-love, a woman who has been an incredible mother to me for twelve years, is alone for the first time in her 77 years of life and isn’t sure how to navigate the silence other than turning on the radio and leaving it on all day. I care that my husband isn’t sure what to do with himself now that he doesn’t have to go and lift his daddy from the wheelchair and place him into bed every early evening or run over there when Jim needed taken care of some other way. I hurt that my youngest doesn’t have much memory of her grandfather as anything other than a Parkinson’s patient and I hurt more that my eldest does and misses the grandfather he knew before this hideous disease invaded our lives.
I don’t care about heaven right now, y’all. Trying to skip over the pain doesn’t lessen it. It forces me into a place of smiling and nodding, pretending that yes, sure, I’m all good, because, hey, we’ll see him again and isn’t that grand.
It’s not grand today. Please let it be okay that it’s not grand. Just for a little bit. We can rejoice in stuff worthy of rejoicing about in time. For now, I need to take a friend’s very wise advice and be gentle with myself. I need to let myself recognize that even though this was a long, long battle that I thought gave me time to be prepared, I was wrong. It still hurts. Each day is a little better than yesterday – I laughed a real laugh yesterday morning with the kiddos, went to the office, and even managed to keep a lunch date with ladies from my neighborhood – but it still hurts. And I’m going to let it hurt for a little while longer. It should hurt. A truly wonderful man is not here anymore. It should hurt.
I try to think of what I will say to people in the future when I hear that death has taken someone they loved off this earth. I don’t think I’ll jump to references of heaven. I think I’ll say, “I’m sad that you’re sad,” or “I’m so sorry this pain has come,” or borrow from my wise friend Mary and say, “Be gentle with yourself.”
Anyway, I do appreciate all of you who have offered comfort and even those of you who have jumped to the heaven references. I know you mean well. I know that. I love you for that. I just wanted to ask you to let me sit here in this remembrance of him and missing him for a little while longer before I have to take a deep breath, set it aside, and pick up full time living and hoping again.
Because even the promise of heaven doesn’t give back the exact same as what was. And saying goodbye to what was…takes a little while.