Years ago, I came across a scene of Grey’s Anatomy in which Dr. George O’Malley had just lost his father. He was standing outside of the hospital when Dr. Cristina Yang approaches him. The two engage in the following conversation:
CRISTINA: “There’s a club. The Dead Dads Club. And you can’t be in it until you’re in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize. But until you feel that loss… My dad died when I was nine. George, I’m really sorry you had to join the club.”
GEORGE: “I… I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t.”
CRISTINA: “Yeah, that never really changes.”
This scene rapidly came to mind on September 18, 2017. Early that morning, I became part of the Dead Dads Club. In a fog of exhaustion, I was thrown into a fraternity of humans wandering in grief.
It’s a permanent club with new members joining us every day. Since my induction, I’ve noticed more friends joining the club. Some joined after their dads perished following a long illness. Others were whisked into the club after a shocking death. I wish I could close the door on their membership. I wish I could delay their painful initiation. And yet, they joined us in the mournful ranks.
This year, many of us are enduring our first Fathers’ Day in this club. We scurry past the Fathers’ Day cards at the store. We try to forget what this Sunday is. We may be grateful that we don’t have to go to places like church where Father’s Day is all over the place. We hope we can make it ten minutes at a time throughout the day, knowing it will be a full year before the next one.
Ugh. Just ugh. I hate all of this.
Like George O’Malley said, I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad isn’t. I still feel like he’s just in the other room when I talk to my mom. I still feel like I’ll catch up with him a little later. I still want to call him when I hear something happening on the news or when I remember something I learned in his Civics class.
But he’s no longer here. And I have to live with this for the remainder of my life here on earth. Part of my brain just can’t grasp this. I don’t think I ever will fully wrap my mind around the world without my father.
So here I am with my fellow “club” members. We all don’t want to be a part of this club. But we are glad that we don’t have to journey alone – not that we want others to have to go through this pain. If we all have to face the pain, at least we can be there for one another. I give thanks for the friends who reached out this week who happen to be enduring similar pain. I give thanks for the friends who sat and waited at the funeral home – just in case I needed them at any point. They are my cohort, and with them we will make it.
So for the day or whenever I need, I rely on God’s mercy and grace to allow what tears may need to fall. I give myself permission to reach out to others in this dreadful club. Because through God and neighbor, we may find some peace along the way.