This morning my ex-father-in-law died. To say “my” in relation to him almost seems fraudulent, really, because I haven’t been in touch with my ex-in-laws for several years, and so can’t claim them as “my” anything. There was a falling out, rooted mainly, as best as I can figure, in the fact that I moved on so thoroughly and completely with my life after their son, my first husband, died.
I was never especially close to my ex-father-in-law; he wasn’t a person many people got close to, and our relationship was sometimes contentious. In the end, there was no relationship at all . . . and yet there was still the tie to Kevin: one of the last remaining blood ties Kevin has to his biological father.
I remember learning a year or so ago that he had been diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t know what his prognosis was, only that he was already almost 80 at that time and had other chronic health issues that limited how aggressively his cancer could be treated. I guess I knew on some level that he probably wasn’t long for this world, but I figured that when he died, I would be indifferent to it. After all, so many hard feelings have been stored up over the years.
When I was told this morning that he had died, however – by Michael, who had received a call with the news while I was out grocery shopping – and I swear to god that when Michael took me into the bedroom and told me very gravely that we needed to talk, I thought he was going to tell me that his cancer was back and that he was dying; my heart felt like it was going to pound its way right out of my chest and I actually had a momentary thought of fainting – I started crying. Pretty hard, actually. The tears and the sudden feeling of loss hit me very unexpectedly. Why did I find myself so sad over the passing of someone I had a mercurial relationship with in the best of times, and no relationship with in the end?
I think it just brings so much home: he was a vestige from a chapter of my life that I left behind a long time ago, and yet will never leave completely behind because of Kevin. And there is Kevin’s loss in all of this, too. It is a reminder to me, too, that our time here is finite; all of us, and everyone we know, whether we love them or hate them or are indifferent to them, will one day exhale our last breath, reverberate briefly with our last heartbeat, and our consciousness will sputter and be extinguished like a candle blown out.
And what is at the end – not after death, but just before? Thoughts of going to be in a better place with people loved and lost? An accounting, or recounting of one’s life? Regrets? Peace?
I hope that when the end of my life is upon me, I have an opportunity to take final stock, and I hope I will see mine as a life well lived. I hope I die with a full heart.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.