My dad died.

Feels weird even typing that.

I’m not looking for sympathy; hell, I don’t even know why I’m typing it out… I guess this is more to gain perspective than anything else. Cheap therapy if you will. Or even if you won’t.

My apologies to those of you who usually read this space for what I laughingly call my atheist/political screeds…I’ll likely be back on form in short order. Today, I’m going to ramble about death a bit.

The first thing I should get out of the way (in case you’re still tempted to feel badly for me, which I appreciate, really…but it’s okay) is that my father and I hadn’t spoken in….oh, now that I actually sit and think about it…. close to 15 years. Not a great guy, my dad. Not what one would call a role model. “aHA!” you think. “So THAT’S what’s wrong with that broad.” Well…yes and no. I was lucky enough to have a step father I loved to distraction, so while growing up was a bit…odd…it was offset by this great relationship I had with him. Thing is….he’d be the first person telling me that I should probably feel something other than relief right now.

That sounds incredibly cold, doesn’t it? I’m sure it does. The angry atheist, and so on. Thing is? It doesn’t feel cold. It’s actually rather comforting. Yes, I’m sure that sounds all kinds of crazy as well. Lemme splain.

I’ve been a nurse for almost 20 years now. 5 of those were spent in an Emergency Room in Oakland, California. Another chunk as a dialysis nurse. I’ve seen a lot of people die. I don’t know what you may have heard or what opinions you’ve formed about professional detatchment. It’s absolutely necessary. Nurses and doctors are well aware that their patients are human. When one of them dies, we’re affected. Detatchment keeps us sane. But…detatchment does not equal total divorce from feeling. I’ve watched patients die slow, lingering deaths and patients who die quickly, within minutes. I’ve held hands and closed eyelids and comforted loved ones. The pain when someone dies…it’s not for that person. It’s for us. For OUR loss. That person is beyond whatever pain we feel. There’s a comfort, however small, in knowing that it’s going to be okay.

We try so hard to keep death from us. To dress it up, to separate ourselves from it….to deny it. Death happens so rarely at home now. I’m not at all sure that’s a smart move. We’re raising kids with no idea how to handle it by “protecting them” from ever seeing it. Death is the natural termination of life. For everyone and everything.

I know that at this point, a lot of people tend to question their religious beliefs. I suppose if this was the first time I was confronted with the trauma of a death, I would likely be doing so myself. But the call I got from my brother last night, in an odd way, confirmed my atheism. I know it’s okay. It was a shock. He was younger than expected (he wasn’t exactly kind to his body). But…it’s what happens. To all of us, eventually. The same thing will someday happen to me. And that will be okay, too. Because I learned from his mistakes what not to do with my kids. I learned to make life count while I’m here, not for when I’m gone.

Whatever meaning life has is the meaning we give it. I’ve always found that thought both empowering and freeing. The legacy we leave behind, the thoughts and memories people carry with them….that’s our heaven. Or hell, depending. So….carpe diem.

This has taken a little over six hours to write. Thanks for bearing with me today.