I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage,
I’ve found that just surviving was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too, had my pointless point of view
Life went on no matter who was wrong or right.
Billy Joel, Angry Young Man
It’s hard to believe that Dad died a year ago next week – mind-numbingly surreal. Where has the time gone? What was I doing? How many times did I think, I want to tell Dad this, only to realize with vein-freezing clarity that he is gone – really gone. Forever.
It has not been an easy year for me, and not just because of Dad – two months after his death I got married, moved into a new apartment (my fourth move in two years) in a brand new city where I didn’t know anyone, and immediately jumped into freelancing. The confounded adjustments of learning how to be a wife and starting my life completely over added a deeper dimension to my grief. It was an entire way of life that I lost last year, though some of it was lost for the better – like my single status – but still it was a loss nonetheless.
I didn’t grieve like a daughter of Dave Caplin should. I am not an eternal optimist like he was, and it was a struggle for me think positive even before the diagnosis of depression. I became like a zombie during the day, and chased PTSD out of my mind with Pinot Grigio at night. I’m amazed that Josh put up with me as he did. But by far the most satisfying thing I did for my grief was allow myself to get angry. Bitingly, nastily angry. Lashing out was my new drug. When a friend from church posted on Facebook how grateful she was that God apparently told her to move out of her apartment a week before it caught fire, I wrote this email to a friend:
I don’t get to say this too often because I know how insensitive it sounds, but I think you’ll understand what I mean. I grew up Jewish, so the Holocaust was an integral part of my Jewish education from a very young age. Also at a young age, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. A friend of mine killed himself, I was raped, and so on and so forth; my point being that I grew up with this awareness that the world isn’t always fair, and bad things happen to good and bad people alike, for reasons we just don’t know…
My father died of cancer because of genetics. Everyone in my family seems to die from cancer – we joke about the apparent “Caplin Cancer Curse.” Other people I know have had relatives miraculously healed from the same illness, because prayer. People prayed for my dad, too. Did those people just not have enough faith, then? Is that why those prayers didn’t “work”? It pisses me off that I’ve heard testimony after testimony from people who question God’s goodness for reasons like not getting that job, not getting that parking spot. Never mind the genocide that’s happened throughout history, and continues today, or that lady down the street suffering from cancer. As long as bad shit doesn’t happen to you personally, then God is still good. Privileged much?
When a friend mentioned this week that God is awesome because her last apartment caught on fire one week after she moved out, she called it a miracle. And the fire was in HER OLD BEDROOM! God told her to move at just the right time to avoid the fire, but fuck that person who moved in after her!
I made a smart choice to spill this rant to a student earning her master’s degree in counseling. She didn’t judge me, but she did recommend that I channel that anger into something more positive than hating people with good intentions. And you know what? My father would have said the same thing.
I have anger about a lot of things in life: anger at never pressing charges against my boyfriend. Anger that I let one insensitive comment from Dad about why I stayed in that relationship as long as I did keep us from speaking for nearly a year, wasting a huge chunk of time I didn’t know was limited. But most of all, I’m angry that I no longer have the solid faith that guided me through other stressful times, and helped me see the potential seeds of redemption to be sown in the turmoil.
But death is a loss that cannot be undone; there is no optimistic spin to put on that. And wishing I could revisit the past and do things differently accomplishes absolutely nothing.
Survival is indeed a noteworthy achievement. Moving forward is the ultimate success story.