Grief is a hard thing for me to talk about. This year has taught me more about grief than I thought I ever would learn at 26/27; and given me a pretty constant, oppressive sense of sorrow to boot. They come and they go at the strangest times, in the strangest ways.
Today, I realized in looking at my calendar, is one of the most important days of my father's life. Today's the day he ran for mayor, running a campaign that absolutely gave the incumbent - who by trickery was listed as both the Republican and the Democratic candidate on the ballot - a run for his money. He had under 10% of the total money to work with of his opponent, and received 40% of the vote, absolutely annihilating his projections. He was told he'd never make it into double digits, and he blew that concept out of the water.
He was told he'd be gone in less than 72 hours. He lived almost 6 more days.
He taught me a lot about fighting even when the odds are against you.
As I sat next to his hospital bed in Philly, we had a lot of time to talk, and I had a lot of time to talk at him when he couldn't join in anymore. We talked about lots of things, from his past, to his hopes and dreams for me, to New England sports, to politics, to family. In his final days he was so thankful of the people who had come into and out of his life. He spent most of his time asking after certain people, or making sure that I would reach out to certain people he wouldn't be able to. People. It always came back to people. So when I talked at him, I told him stories about people. Some that he knew, some that he'd never have the fortune of knowing. I told him about people from my past, and my present. I told him about my fears, my dreams, my accomplishments, my failures. I told him I loved him.
If I learned anything from the experience of watching my father drift away into a sleep from which he'd never return, and then living alone in his house for months, taking care of his business, and then dealing with the emotional, mental, and life fallout from all of that, I learned that loneliness is sudden, oppressive, and often arrives without warning. And without people, people you trust, people you care about, there's almost nothing that can beat it back. And there will be times where those people won't be there, can't be there, and you have to face that loneliness yourself. So what do you do?
Me? I create.
"How are you doing?"
"My condolences on your loss"
"I'm so sorry for your loss"
"My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family"
Well intentioned, and heartfelt phrases are said in my direction about 50 times a day at this point. They are as required a social contract as "Hello" and "How are you?" Every single one that comes builds me up, and improves my mood. What I can't describe, and what I'm acutely aware of, however, is the weariness with which I respond to these sentiments. When my father passed away, I found myself trying to respond to each outreach personally and individually, because I wanted everyone to know how much I appreciate their words. This became impossible very quickly, and so I prepared a list of stock phrases that I hand out now like candies. They are wearisome, they are cumbersome, and I hate the obligatory exchange it has become.
"Thank you, I really appreciate that" has become my standard reply. Last night while talking with a close friend, what was so refreshing was that we had a great conversation without it ever coming up. When I mentioned offhandedly that I had a lot of things on my brain, he responded with "I know that life," followed by an awkward pause, and "though not exactly. You know, my condolences, and all that." It was so honest, and it was so real. All I could do was laugh, and laugh I did, it was one of the most cathartic exchanges possible. I just want real interaction, and real conversation. People underestimate the power of laughter. You don't need to handle me with kid gloves.
So how am I?
On February 3rd, 2016, my father, William Michael Donovan, passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was 62 years old. We held a memorial service today, Saturday February 6th, 2016, at the Liberty Bell Church in Allentown Pennsylvania, with Pastor Bob Stevens presiding. My brother and I kept the service simple, and easy, just the way he would have liked it. We celebrated the wonderful man he was, with great family and friends, followed by a gathering at the Allentown Brew Works to raise a glass to Michael Donovan.
Treasured family friends spoke or read today, so thank you to Bill Hoffman, Carol Pulham, Bob Stevens, Ce-Ce Gerlach, Mark Smith, Don Ringer, and Joyce Marin for lending their voices to our celebration of Dad.
I wish I had more to say, but it's just been a long week. I'm sure there will be more in the coming days and months.
At the request of many, I'm going to give record of the service we held. Below you will find each of the readings that were read, as well as the full text of my words I spoke in honor of my father.
Thank you to everyone who has been here for me in the last week. Your support has meant the world.
I find myself hilarious, and I use this blog to stroke my own ego. Thanks for indulging me.