I won’t be sad to see 2018 leave.
It’s been a rough year. For the country. For mental health advocates. For the public mental health system in America. And for me personally.
I’m not sure where to begin. But I’m pretty certain where this will end.
When every day becomes a chore, and every morning a challenge to wake up to, you know you’re at your wit’s end. 2018 was a lot like that for me. Despite the joys — such as celebrating my 15th wedding anniversary with my wife back in Antigua — it was hard to find some glimmer of light in the darkness.
You see, my Dad lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease in 2018, in the evening of November 28th. He’d been living with the disease for over 20 years, so it’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. And it’s not like he didn’t have a full and fulfilling life. It’s just that the end, when it comes, is always hard. It’s always sad. No matter how much you think you’ve prepared yourself for it.
What still disturbs me is the long, hard wait in hospice care while he lay there, unable to open his eyes, much less speak. The last few weeks of his life were spent largely in unconsciousness. His body held on tight, even while his mind had let go long ago.
The way I remember Paul, my Dad, is as a fun-loving, personable, and friendly man, a guy who could talk to you all day about anything you wanted and make you feel at ease.
Paul enjoyed his professional sports teams. He was a good man and a good Dad. It was easy to have him in my life, to share memories with him as two adults in this journey of life together.
So this fall, in trying to cope with his deteriorating condition and move into a nursing home and then into hospice care, I’ve been kind of living in a fog. I’ve been on auto-pilot often, or plowing myself into work and tasks that need to be done but I’ve had no heart to do. Emotionally, I’ve been all over the map. Losing a parent does that to a person, no matter how close you were or weren’t to them.
A New Year, A New Start
New Year’s is, of course, just another day in an arbitrary calendar year — a calendar set up by some clever guy who also happened to be quite powerful at the time, Pope Gregory XIII. We humans make a big deal about it out of tradition and a need to believe we all have the chance to start over. To begin again, anew. Well, at least once a year. A sort of societal cleansing of all the bad things that happened over the past 365 days.
From that perspective, I couldn’t be more on board.
A new start is just what the doctor ordered, not just for those of us who’ve lost a loved one in the past year. But for everyone who’s been struggling with their depression, with their mental health concerns, or just with their lives.
I had hoped I could wish you a happy new year, but it’s hard to imagine happiness in a world without Paul in it. I know that day will come… In due time.
However, I can and do wish you a peaceful and hopeful new year. And I wish that it is better and offers you more possibilities than 2018 did.
Here’s to you, 2019. Peace.
In Memory of My Dad