[From November 7, 2021: One of the through-lines of our lives, certainly these last few years, has been the overwhelming amount of grief we’ve been faced with, each new loss compounding the ones that came before. A little over a year ago, weeks after returning from a restorative trip to the ocean, Chelli would lose both of her parents — her father, then her mother — to the scourge of COVID in the span of just six days. The following passage was written on the evening we lost her father, trying to make sense of this latest dance with the dark clouds, unaware that in just a few days time, the matter would get even more complicated with her mother’s sudden passing.]
It’s been a month-and-a-half since we took our roadtrip to Hilton Head, where Chelli actually relaxed, best as she knows how, days spent communing with the ocean and taking selfies. From the beginning, the very notion of the trip felt both important & importantly timed, in large part because the eighteen months or so of COVID-related isolation that preceded it was beginning to have significant and undeniable mental health consequences for her… and for me, too, no doubt. It also felt like a critical moment for Chelli to regroup, a preparation for whatever was to come next. I’m not sure we knew what “next” would entail fully — if we’ve learned anything, it’s that attempting to predict the shitshow’s future is a futile and exhausting fool’s errand — but it seemed clear that something just over the horizon was going to require a full showing up.
In the days before and since our trip, Chel’s waking hours have been almost completely consumed by the extraordinary task of (remotely) managing the care of her elderly parents, who live 900+ miles away in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her days have been full of excruciating decisions that no child feels adequately prepared for, much less an only child who is battling her own series of serious health issues. She has been both heroic and quintessentially human, often in the same stupefying moment.
After weeklong hospitalizations for COVID pneumonia, Chelli’s parents were released from St. John’s in the last week: her mother to 24/7 hospice care several days ago, then her father joined her under the same roof yesterday. Roger’s transition from the hospital to home care was… difficult. Whether it was the stress of the move or simply his continued COVID fight, Roger succumbed earlier this evening, passing away under the same roof as his beloved wife of 66 years.
We’ve had enough entanglements with grief over the years to know the days ahead will be difficult & unpredictable. For Chelli, it will be the grief of losing her father — a man who was always clear about his grand and unflinching love for his daughter — while she also continues to remotely oversee her mother’s care, who continues to decline with dementia and now, the remnants of COVID pneumonia, too.
My wife is a warrior. Anyone who has met her, particularly since she’s been battling her own degenerative health issues, will tell you as much. But as sure as I know that, I also know this: warriors are also human, especially when it comes to dealing with the brokenness of grief.