When Parents Die

This is not Thunder RoadEighteen years ago my life changed in a number of ways. It was the year that I suffered through a broken heart. The year that M.B. committed suicide and the year that B’s mother suddenly died and then so did A’s father.

We were only 20 but I didn’t spend too much time thinking about mortality. I just shrugged my shoulders and went about my business.

Since then I have borne witness to the loss of a number of others. There was another suicide, cancer robbed us of some good friends and of course the death of more of my friends parents. I have been to a lot of funerals. I have more practice than I want offering condolences to mourners. It is not easy. You do the best that you can to offer support and not intrude upon people during intimate moments of grief.

I wrote about ‘D’ on more than one occasion. We buried him. I won’t ever forget it. As a pallbearers we helped escort him to the grave. When the time came I took off my coat and shoveled the dirt into his grave. I paused for a moment and looked up. I made eye contact with his mother and I won’t ever forget the look of horror on her face. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

In all candor, most funerals pale in comparison to this. That is not to denigrate or marginalize the others, but they have been somewhat easier.

Back to the topic. This will sound silly, but it seems like my parents and many of my friends have aged overnight. With varying degrees we all see the affect of time upon our moms and dads. Most of them are hanging in there, but their ability to do things has diminished. Some of them are facing greater challenges than others.

It is not always easy to watch your heroes grow older. It is hard to reconcile how the man who used to effortlessly carry you around now needs your help with little things. And the deaths of the parents of friends weighs upon you because it is another reminder of the mortality of your own parents.

One day they will die. One day we’ll lose them to whatever comes next. Call me selfish, but I am not sure that I’ll ever be ready to say goodbye.

(author’s note: I couldn’t figure out how to end this. It might be because it is the middle of the night and I am tired. I don’t really care why, I just have to go to sleep.)

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  1. Jack's Shack February 21, 2007 at 5:06 am


    That is a good question and sound advice. The question is do you feel middle aged.

  2. PsychoToddler February 20, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    It’s very hard to watch your parents become old. I had waves of this each time I’d return to NY to see my father become more and more of an invalid.

    Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that my mom, always a witty, spunky gal, has become an old lady. When did that happen? What does that say about me? Am I now a middle aged man?

    But there is a certain finality about the death of a parent that is hard for kids to deal with. It’s like the book has ended. And it may not have ended where we wanted it or at the note we wanted. And that’s it. There’s no rewriting it, no epilogue. It’s final.

    All I can say is, do your best when your folks are alive to keep the story happy.

  3. Jack's Shack February 19, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Hi Mark,

    The blogosphere is a good place to find a community.


    From your mouth to G-d’s ears.

  4. torontopearl February 18, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    Oy, there’s so much of this going around lately. And it isn’t that people are just going to sleep and not waking up in the morning.

    Last Sunday, we got an automated phone message from our shul that someone’s father passed away, and the funeral would be on Monday.

    Today, Sunday afternoon, we got an automated phone message from our shul that the same person’s mother passed away, and the funeral will be tomorrow, Monday.

    Can you imagine — no, you should never have to! — getting up from shiva, just to have to sit shiva again. Two parents, a week apart…

    We should all only have simchas, and hear good things in our lives, Jack.

  5. Mark February 18, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    I’m gonna have to link to this one too…

    I think we all have this sort of experience with our folks.

    Makes me feel better that I am not alone.

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