Thursday, January 7, 2010

Grief Interrupted

I was the luckiest little girl in the world. From a very early age, my parents told me the story of how they came to get me. They said that they wanted a little girl very badly, so they went to the baby store, walked down aisles and aisles of babies until they found the perfect one: me. It was a wonderful story to tell a child who was adopted how very much she was loved and wanted. I grew up in a family with a mother and father who gave everything they could, and then some.

But what of the birth parents, the people who gave me away? I met my birth parents, Susan and Pat, when I was twenty years old and found two people who were loving, caring and accepting of a young girl seeking the answers to all life’s questions. Susan was young when she gave birth to me, and realized that I might have a different and possibly better life with another set of parents. It seems to me the ultimate in parental love, the giving away of your child so they may have a finer existence.

My mother and father, the people who raised me, have both passed away. My mother died in February of 2006 and my father died in April of 2009. My birth parents are much younger than the parents that raised me. I had expected to have plenty of time with Sue and Pat, and had even looked forward to the possibility of them moving south for retirement.

This is what I did not know: lung cancer can be asymptomatic. By the time Pat discovered he had lung cancer it had progressed to his bones and various parts of his body. It was around Thanksgiving when the doctors told him he had cancer and it was already in stage IV. Pat Green died Christmas eve, December 24, 2009.

I went to Connecticut to visit Pat in December to say goodbye and see Susan. As he sat on his couch, racked with a pain so brutal he could hardly breathe, he turned to me and said, “You know, I’m a pretty lucky guy. I’ve got all this, a house, a family, people who care. There’s lots of people out there that have it much worse than me.”
In the midst of suffering, Pat saw optimism. He was that kind of guy. He was perhaps the kindest person I have ever known and had an ability to make everyone feel special. I loved him, and I know he loved me.

My husband, son and I went to Pat’s funeral in Connecticut this week. Worried about my six year old son, I asked him how he was feeling on the day of the wake. He looked out the window at the snow and said, “It’s good, bad and sad. I got to go sledding, but Poppa Pat is dead.”

Good, bad and sad. My son got it exactly right. In the midst of our grief we are interrupted by life.

Goodbye, Poppa Pat.

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