There’s this club that I’ve joined recently. It’s not a particularly coveted club, and its members are all forcibly indoctrinated. The members have a shorthand that’s communicated with nods, winks, sighs and knowing laughs. A possible name for this collective of bewildered children could be the dead parent club, the passed away castaway, the paradigm shift parade. I’d like to tell you how I’ve learned to love this club.
About a year ago, my father passed away very unexpectedly. I was extremely close with my father. He was a fascinating man who was intimately connected to my heart. I had often pondered the death of my parents. It horrified me as a child when I learned that my parents’ death would be a natural inevitability. I had a morbid curiosity about the topic; I wondered how I would survive such a loss, how anyone survives such loss. The day came a lot sooner than I was expecting, but it came pretty much exactly how I had imagined… a phone call, one of those dreaded phone calls: “Breeda, your father is in the hospital; it’s not good.” I was in Texas at the world premiere of UnREAL at SxSW. I rushed to the airport and jumped on the next plane and was in the air within the hour.
My father never woke up after that day. We spent a bizarre week in the hospital, followed by a whirlwind of busy dealings, a grab bag of sudden rituals we didn’t realize existed: flowers, coffins, burials, venues, food, engravings, emails. My father had died and then it seemed like we were planning a wedding all of a sudden.
Then something extraordinary happened that I could not have anticipated. The club showed up. My parents’ next-door neighbor organized a group of women in the neighborhood to cook for us every night. Women we hardly knew, many of them I had never met, would show up with meals for seven people. The next month and even into the following year, so many people stepped up for us.
The death of a parent is a deeply personal experience. There’s a lifetime of memories, hopes and dreams that come rushing into your mind. Questions about who you are and where you’re going in life come up. There can be confusion about your beliefs and your soul. Grief is a wild ride. But what I miraculously found in all that confusion is that there are people out there who know exactly how I feel. Loss is a shared experience, it’s a global experience. Death can be a beautiful equalizer. It can bond people across many worlds. I have never felt more empathetic and closer to the people and the world around me. I learned we are all just kids with parents. If you have already experienced this loss, hello — I’m with you. And if you have not, just know there is a club out there, and we’re waiting to cook you dinner.