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So Much Loss

October 27, 2010

Two years ago today, my step father died suddenly.  A few months into the retirement that he had anxiously waited on and meticulously planned for, he dropped dead of a heart attack.

I met Ross in the 7th grade.  He was my science teacher and in charge of the ski club.  I loved both science and skiing so we got along great!  Ross’ first name is actually Ken but since he was my teacher, he evolved from Mr. Ross to just Ross and that stuck for me.  Seventh grade was significant for me not just because it was the year I met Ross but it was the year that cancer began its royal beat down on my Dad.  That battle lasted just over 2 1/2 years before cancer won and shortly after, my Ma and Ross were reunited through a ski trip of mine.  A few years later and my former science teacher became my step dad living in my house… in a bathrobe… awkward.  I have soooo many fun memories of Ross.  I learned a lot about myself and relationships through him.  He loved passionately and could get as angry as a “Portuguese man ‘o war”.   Even today, I can’t believe he’s gone.

My mother is twice widowed.  Something I honestly can’t really wrap my mind around.  In the same and often missed vein, I have lost two fathers.  You see, Ross was in my life longer than my Dad.  He was there for all my boyfriends, to teach me how to drive (sort of), for my high school and college graduation, for my wedding, to become Grandpa Ross to my kids and those are just the big things! I loved him dearly and miss him incredibly.

When my phone, set on vibrate during a child’s doctors appointment, began to shake my purse beyond what I thought humanly possibly, I couldn’t really digest the words my sister told me when I answered – “it sounds like Ross is having a heart attack and Ma is (understandably) freaking out”.   From that moment, I went into survival mode.  Called my Ma, called my step brother, called Joel, dropped off the kids, called Ma in the ambulance, called my sister, called my other sister, got the call that he hadn’t made it, fielded that call from my step brother who was lost on his way to the hospital and didn’t know yet – and that was just in the first 60 minutes.

With the help of amazing friends, our family was packed and across the country in less than 24 hours.  From there, I was honored to serve my Ma in any way I could.  The funeral director and my new go to guy, Phil, was added to my speed dial.  My kids and husband were only seen late at night and early in the morning as I helped coordinate a service that would honor Ross who had made literally no preparations for his death (surprising since he was married to a widow but painfully true).

In the two years since his death, loss has come at me at a pace that is difficult to digest.  I have two sisters and a step brother and, today, none of them play an active role in my life.

My middle sister has cut off contact with me.  She and I were two peas in a pod and overnight that ended.  I called, wrote, e-mailed, texted, visited, apologized and still she wants nothing to do with me.  Her grief over Ross’ death and the feelings that resurfaced from my Dad’s death have literally changed the course of her life as she walked out on her husband months later.

My eldest sister no longer talks to me.  Honestly, we’ve never really gotten along.  She can’t respect my love for Jesus and looks for ways to hurt and manipulate me (she would say I do the same to her).  This loss was a long time coming and maybe not entirely all a bad thing but still a loss.

My step brother only talks to me now when he is looking for ways to see if there is money he can pull from my Ma.  Even as I went home to clean out my childhood home that my Dad built, his only concern was for money.  Not once did he ask about my children or me or anyone other than money for him.  It broke my heart to realize that yet another relationship had been lost as a result of Ross’ death.

I’m sure I have lost and damaged friendships as a result of Ross’ death.  I’m really not good at expressing the hurt in my heart.  Even today, as Joel came home, all I could mutter was “I miss Ross or something” as I went in the house and cried.  Friends don’t always get that.  They think you’re just blowing them off or acting weird towards them.  You’d think I’d be better at including them in my grief but I’m really not.  Losing my Dad at such an impressionable age, I learned that my hurt needs to go to my Heavenly Father as He is the only one that can really soothe that.  People don’t get that and wonder why I’m not reaching out to them but it’s what I know my heart needs.

I never realized what glue Ross was for our family until he was gone and things started to crumble.  I’m sure he would be shocked by it.  The more time goes by, the more my heart aches to hear his loud voice.  Joel does a pretty good impression of him, but it’s just not the same.

I have learned a lot from Ross’ death.  I have lost alot in the wake of it but I have also gained so many things too.  Today the focus is on the loss.  Tomorrow, it’ll be on the joy I’ve found in this loss…

–Ingrid

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