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As much as I love working, I had been missing writing that didn’t have to be submitted to a client or an editor, and with the close of summer I had dreamy plans of writing more. About how, in June, we decided to move, and by July we were standing in a new kitchen, trying to figure out where the cereal now goes. About how we live “out in the country now” (quotations because we’re still, somehow, incredibly close to the highway, but also next to a conservation) and our backyard often has deer and wild turkeys and chipmunks and foxes and rabbits and I needed a friend to give me an in-person tutorial on how to identify poison ivy. About how the girls are in a new school and we’re in a new community and making new grown-up friends is a little bit like online dating. (She likes stand-up paddle boarding, too? Swipe right.)

Lots of plans to write once I ushered the girls off to school and we had mostly unpacked, although, as I’m writing this, I’m staring at a stack of framed art and photos yet to be hung. Alas, September brought even more change.

I bought a one-way plane ticket on a Wednesday morning to fly out that Wednesday night, because my siblings and I were told that suddenly, unexpectedly, a doctor declared that our dad had a terminal diagnosis and his days were numbered. I had haphazardly thrown clothes in a suitcase, repeating to myself that if I forgot everything, all I needed was my passport, my contacts, my credit card, and my phone, and I’d figure out the rest.

We — my siblings and I, hailing from three different continents — converged on Australia to spend Dad’s last days with him. There were long hours in a small beige room with all of us clustered around in borrowed chairs, but there was also a little downtime for eating meals and walking down to the harbor and flipping through old photos. A little fresh air and ice cream does wonders when the inside of a hospice room continues to take its toll, and collapsing onto a couch in a strange flat in a strange city is certainly less intimidating when you’re sharing it with your brothers. As we got closer to the very final days, there were cat naps in chairs and hospital cafeteria sandwiches and caffeine en masse and holding a hand that could no longer quite hold back.

What does one say at the end? When they’ve slipped off into days of no longer being conscious, are the words more for me or for him? And yet, despite my uncertainty, those last days together — whether speaking or simply being — felt like a gift. He was a remarkable man and I wish he was still here.

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I flew back home and the sense of loss deepened. Theories abound as to why — maybe because being stateside felt very final, maybe it was because there was something comforting about being around my siblings who are sharing the loss like I am, maybe it was the jet lag and the lack of sleep making it worse, maybe it was because I spent hours and hours reading old emails from him, hours looking at photos, or maybe it was his comments on my blog that I forgot about, re-remembered, and cried fresh tears reading.

I wore comfy pants and hid in my bed while my saintly husband continued to shoulder household tasks and usher the kids outside to play and let me sleep in because my body didn’t know how to handle the fourteen hour time difference while in Australia or in Connecticut.

I notified friends and clients of his passing via impersonal mass email and text and Facebook and yet it felt, somehow, like I was sharing the burden. Two weeks prior, a friend had tweeted “I have a friend in pain and I can’t be where she is so I keep praying that people there will be nice to her.” I didn’t see her tweet until traveling home, but I smiled at it, as the kindness I received from strangers felt like a salve.

The man on the plane who hotspotted his phone once we landed in Sydney so I could check my email for updates. The entire staff at the hospice in Darlinghurst. The barista at the coffee shop by the Airbnb we rented who remembered me as “tea with honey and milk from the States.” The airline agent, who, when the system had booted me off my flight home and my body decided sobbing in front of two hundred people felt like the right thing to do, cried along with me and did her best to fix it. I had been wearing a sweatshirt and leggings and my hair was in a ponytail; the agents sniffed and looked sad and called me a ‘poor young girl’ and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I’m in my thirties and just currently emotionally unstable.

At home, the offer of “can I do anything?” hit my phone more than once. My brain couldn’t think of a single thing I needed until a friend texted me one night and said, “Are you hungry? Want something from Chipotle?” and I realized I hadn’t yet eaten that day, and yes, I think I could eat a burrito.

Her husband (also a dear friend) showed up at my front door with take-out and a six-pack of Diet Coke and a card and flowers and homemade cookies. I think, maybe, that when a friend experiences a loss, it seems like any token is hardly enough. Doesn’t everything seem terribly shallow? What can possibly mitigate pain? But truly, on that evening, I experienced the healing power of a Chipotle burrito and a cold Diet Coke.

My doorbell rang a few times and I emerged out of my bed to greet more than one delivery man in a hoodie and boxer briefs. There were sorry-your-dad-died flowers and a sorry-your-dad-died peace lily plant and an impossibly beautiful sorry-your-dad-died Simone LeBlanc box.

There were cards and texts and when I had ignored those texts, there was a friend who showed up with allergy-safe turkey chili and cornbread for me and the girls and vegan chili for my vegan husband. Maybe in the past I thought a casserole seemed absurd, but then I discovered that, in the midst of grief, the thought of cooking a meal or putting on real pants to do after school pick-up felt like monumental tasks.

I sat at the barstool at our kitchen counter, doing nothing in particular, when Jack suggested I take a shower.

“Am I that gross?” It was 4pm and I was in the clothes I slept in the night before.

“Kinda,” he said with a smile. A hot shower. A hot meal. Two work emails. An entire load of laundry. A game of Words with Friends. No Netflix, because I can’t risk watching anything that makes me sad(der).

“I’d like to get back to normal by Sunday,” I announced. “I’m boring myself with how pathetic I’m being.” A few pointed out that it’s important to take time and go easy with myself. I took a long bath and drank sorry-your-dad-died booze.

“It wasn’t a sorry-your-dad-died Simone LeBlanc box,” the giver sighed at the overuse of my morbid, flippant, hyphenated adjective. “It was a take-good-care-of-yourself box.” And so I am, or I’m trying, to the tune of book-reading for hours in the tub and hiding under four blankets and maybe even writing. Although, as an aside, I wanted to turn off the comments on this one, because I can’t bear the thought of anyone thinking I’m writing this for the sorry-your-dad-died notes, but then there’s Facebook comments, and I’m terribly indecisive right now, so here we are.

While they may seem trivial, there is something awfully comforting about flowers on your table and a candle on your kitchen counter and a card in the mail and an email declaring that his obituary made him sound like the most interesting man in the world (he was).

“Sometimes, people … will step up for you in ways you never imagined,” says Issa, a friend who lost her father a year ago. “Put these people further up the ‘chain of giving,’ as it were. Make sure these are the people you check on, the people you run to when they are in need, and the ones who feel the depth of your appreciation for them. People who help you get through things that are difficult and painful, especially at a cost to themselves, are priceless in the truest sense of the word.”

It’s a reminder for me to bake some I-wish-you-weren’t-going-through-this cookies or pick up a this-is-terrible-and-I-love-you potted plant for people in the future.

Somehow, in some way, inanimate objects and kind words gifted in love ease some pains, not least of which, the pain of my inbox now being woefully empty of emails from an old man on the other side of the world — emails filled with stories and impossible to pronounce Welsh phrases, emails telling me that he just got in from his morning run and that I write like an angel (truly, a humorous mental image), and emails insisting that I patently look like him and that American politics are the worst.

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47 Comments

  • Reply Tara October 2, 2016 at 12:37 am

    This might be a sorry-your-dad-died comment, but it’s also a happy-to-read-your-writing comment too! You’ve been missed!
    Really though, hugs and good vibes to you while you grieve!

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 12:53 am

      Thank you, Tara, that’s incredibly sweet.

  • Reply Christy October 2, 2016 at 12:38 am

    Sorry for your loss Roo. What a wonderful tribute to him.

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 12:54 am

      Really appreciate it, Christy.

  • Reply Tiffany October 2, 2016 at 12:51 am

    Always sending love, hugs and prayers. I wish I lived closer to do more than that. ❤️

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

  • Reply Lisa October 2, 2016 at 1:43 am

    I am sorry, Roo. Also I am glad you are writing again. I missed your blog. This is a beautiful essay. I wish you all the best. With love from Germany, Lisa

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks very much, Lisa. Writing is simultaneously cathartic and puke-inducing, I think. ❤️

  • Reply Christine October 2, 2016 at 2:06 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Keep taking care of yourself. Hugs.

  • Reply Rosie N. October 2, 2016 at 2:19 am

    I love you, Roo. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I’ll be praying for you and your family. Hope to “see” you around more. :) hugs!

  • Reply Cassandra Whiting October 2, 2016 at 2:47 am

    Oh man. So much love to you Roo. So many heartfelt sympathies I wish I could verbalize. Your love and care for your dad shines through this so much. I wish I knew him.
    I am sorry your dad died. I am sorry you are hurting. I am sorry I personally can’t do anything to make it better. But I do believe in ministering angels, and I am asking God to send them your way.
    Thanks for sharing. Opening up can be so difficult and cathartic and scary and indecisive all at once. But I am grateful you did.
    Love ya!

  • Reply Titania Jordan October 2, 2016 at 6:56 am

    I love you, Roo.

  • Reply Rachel October 2, 2016 at 7:00 am

    Roo. Thank you for writing this. Love to you and your family.

  • Reply Lindsay October 2, 2016 at 7:00 am

    Love you.

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

  • Reply Angela October 2, 2016 at 7:40 am

    I’m sad that you’re sad, and I want you to know that you and your family are very loved! And to echo the other commenters, I’m glad you wrote, because I missed your voice.

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 9:59 pm

      Thank you so much, Angela. That really means a lot to me.

  • Reply Elizabeth October 2, 2016 at 8:01 am

    I enjoy your writing-always click it right away when it pops up. Thank you for sharing your feels and your thoughts. I wouldn’t recognize you if I passed you on the street, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pray for you and your family as you sort out your new normal with the added heartache, so I will.

  • Reply Meg October 2, 2016 at 8:39 am

    I am so sorry for your loss, but also incredibly happy for the love, friends, and family you have to support you. You deserve every bit of the support you receive now, but also in the future. Grief is a tricky thing, and months after you think the bulk of it has passed, it may wash over you again- usually in shorter duration but no less poignant. It will be ok to ask for help again. And again. Grief heals in its own time and on its own terms.

  • Reply Sandra October 2, 2016 at 9:27 am

    You and your beautiful family are loved by strangers near and far. I am not a gifted writing angel like yourself, so hopefully it will suffice to know that you are in my thoughts and this no-person urges you to give yourself permission to be as sad or happy as you want to be at any given moment. I hope time does begin to make things easier and that it passes quickly for you.

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      When writing the post, I almost wanted to make a Hell’s Angels (you know, the kind on Harleys) joke, but it seemed wildly out of place. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me such a kind comment. Really appreciate it.

  • Reply Jennifer isaacson October 2, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Oh Roo. There are no words. I lost my dad within a couple months a few days before Christmas. It’s just as fresh. My heart is broken for you. If I could, I’d come hold your hand and carefully choose upbeat Netflix to watch with you. If you haven’t already, watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It helped me laugh in the weeks following my dad while keeping it light. Do NOT watch parenthood. Praying for you and your family… it is so freaking hard. Death is so painful and ugly. Praise God for hope.

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      Oh goodness, Jennifer. I’m sorry for your loss. I’d sing Pinot Noir to you right now, but somehow that feels a little irreverent. Staying far away from Parenthood. Hope you’re doing ok. 💕

  • Reply A October 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    So, so sorry Roo – this sucks. Keep taking care of yourself and making those small steps towards finding your balance again. Praying for you and your family.

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 9:54 pm

      Thank you so much — am trying and am hopeful.

  • Reply Erma October 2, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I think virtual hugs are the worst in terms of deliverable condolences, but *huuuuuug* anyways.

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      Haha, will take it!

  • Reply Rachel October 2, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Roo, I am so sorry for your loss. I have missed your writing and my joy at seeing your return was quickly gone as I read on. As you go through the ups and downs of grief remember to care for yourself and that people across the world are thinking of you. xx

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Rachel, that’s incredibly sweet. Thank you so much. X

  • Reply Yvonne Goodhue October 2, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    A beautiful tribute to your dad. It’s a pain that never goes away we just learn how to go on. Memories are a wonderful source to help heal and having emails is a bonus! I believe your dad is so proud of his angel – and now you have your own too he is always with you! ❤

  • Reply Sheila Mason October 2, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Hey Roo. Sorry for your loss. May Jehovah always bless you and your family.

    • Reply Roo October 2, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      Thank you, Sheila. That’s very kind.

  • Reply Beth October 2, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    All true…may we never forget that kindness matters in the “I don’t know how to help” moments in life. We are designed to do life together, in good times, in uncertain times and especially in rough times. So grateful you experienced such love and kindness in the midst of such sadness and heartache.

  • Reply Beth Amoro October 2, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    All true…may we never forget that kindness matters in the “I don’t know how to help” moments in life. We are designed to do life together, in good times, in uncertain times and especially in rough times. So grateful you experienced such love and kindness in the midst of such sadness and heartache.

  • Reply Shirley October 3, 2016 at 9:10 am

    I am so sorry, Roo. Believe it or not, with all of our connections, this is the first time I am hearing this news. You are a remarkable woman, so it is no surprise that your dad was a remarkable man. I hope your memories and faith bring you comfort at this time. Treasure every moment with your own beautiful children, as life on this planet is fleeting. I am sorry for your tremendous loss, but rejoice with you that you were able to be there with him for his final days…what a blessing. And to have your siblings by your side was a gift. Heal however you can…long baths, cans of Diet Coke, and cathartic crying…knowing that others hearts join with yours, and that YOU are loved. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Reply Leticia Barr October 3, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    I am so very sorry about your dad and wish I had brilliant words to fill the giant hole in your heart but I truly appreciate the gentle reminder that sometimes, cookies, Diet Coke, and an offer of Chipotle may not seem like much but can mean the world. Much love to you, my friend!

  • Reply Jennifer October 4, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Your writing is heartfelt and wonderful to read. Perhaps try your hand at a novel? This old friend/training partner is proud of the amazing things you accomplished. Something tells me I’m not the only one. (Cue sappy music)

  • Reply Lindsey October 4, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Your words are his life and breath. You carry his gifts and parts of his soul still. I love you like crazy and have been praying/thinking about you daily. Xoxo.

  • Reply Tazeen October 4, 2016 at 9:22 am

    How beautifully written. What a wonderful relationship is a Father-daughter one. I am so sorry for your loss, your dad sounds like an amazingly cool dad.
    Take care of yourself, that’s what he would have wanted too.

  • Reply Kiley October 6, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    I’m so awful at figuring out what to say. But I felt compelled to just leave a comment so you know that all of your words and all of your pain reached me. And I’m sending love and healing your way.

    • Reply Roo October 13, 2016 at 6:20 pm

      Thank you so much, Kiley. This was so sweet to read. ❤️

  • Reply Amelinda October 6, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    I feel like my comment will sound like a broken record. But I want to reach out and give you a big internet hug

    (——— :-* ———-)

    And say that I’ve missed you terribly and am glad to “hear” your voice again

  • Reply Joshua C October 13, 2016 at 11:59 am

    👊🏼🙏🏼❤️ from a couple states down.

  • Reply Britiney October 13, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    I’m reading this a month late, but ❤️

  • Reply Marny November 3, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Your dad was a gem. And so was this tribute.

    • Reply Roo November 3, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      Thanks, Marny. Really kind of you.

  • Reply Janee November 8, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Roo, I’m so sorry for your loss. My husband lost his father a few weeks ago and my heart absolutely aches for the both of you. It’s true, the small gifts and gestures from people that have stepped up have brought so much comfort to my husband and I’m so grateful to them. Thinking of you and sending hugs.

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