My father-in-law, Rich Wright, was diagnosed with cancer last November, shortly before my last post here, and he passed away one month ago, on February 5th.
Over the past three months, I've had neither the time nor the inclination to write (and I'm very grateful to the people who noticed my absence and reached out to ask if everything was OK. It wasn't, obviously, so I hope you'll forgive me when I've failed to respond.)
It's been a very difficult experience, on many different levels--surprisingly difficult, I have to say. While it's been a privilege to do what I can to support Amy, it hasn't been easy. It's been very, very hard. Hard to see her in such pain, hard to avoid unhelpful problem-solving, and hard to realize--although I got there eventually--that all that was being asked of me was to be there with her, acknowledge the pain, share it, and express empathy. Nothing else mattered--and anything else tended to get in the way. While there are aspects of that process that feel familiar to me as a coach, it took time to understand that I'm used to being more directive, more of an actor, in my personal life, and I needed to shift gears and just be with her.
I also found myself feeling an unexpected surge of emotion at Rich's passing. While I liked and respected him immensely, and I believe that was reciprocated, we weren't close. I attribute that to the fact that we met when he was a 46-year-old father of four, and I was an 18-year-old at loose ends dating his youngest daughter; we only saw each other once a year or so over the last two decades; and while I make my living talking to people, he was very comfortable with silence. So although I felt surges of emotion regularly during Rich's illness, they seemed to be more on Amy's behalf than direct expressions of grief. But when he died, I truly mourned. He had been a large presence in my life for 24 years, and I simply couldn't believe he was gone. That absence, the void he left behind, was just so sad.
Finally, I've found that Rich's passing has stirred up feelings related to other issues in my life. I felt lucky that my own parents could come to Rich's funeral, and I got to spend a few hours with them. We really enjoy each others' company, even on somber occasions such as this one, which makes me appreciate the time I spend with them even more--and makes me painfully aware of how rarely I actually see them. And of course, I'm now acutely aware of own mortality--and while in my better moments that makes me appreciate the joys and gifts of life, it can also trigger a sense of inadequacy, a fear that I've squandered much while accomplishing little. (I suspect some coaching friends will rush in to challenge this perspective--and while I appreciate the effort, I just need to sit with this feeling for a while. But thank you.)
It does feel good to write this down, to claim some space and set myself against the inertia that has accompanied the grief. To push, although in what direction I have no idea.
Photo by NatalieMaynor. Thanks to Flickr and CreativeCommons.