3 weeks ago today, I lost my dad, Christopher Snyder, to a brain aneurysm. He was 51 years old. Within a matter of hours, from the time my stepmom called to tell me he had collapsed to the time she called to tell me he had passed, my life turned completely upside down.
What has been the hardest to deal with so far is not the fact that I have lost my father (as I think I am still in shock) but the way people have reacted to this event.
Death, like birth is an intimate thing. It brings out emotions that not everyone is comfortable exposing. There is a vulnerability there that people are not used to feeling or facing. It’s because of that people have such a hard time reacting to death and grief. I have experienced kindness and sympathy from complete strangers and on the other hand I have experienced an utter lack of concern from people whom I thought should care the most.
When my parents divorced, 21 some years ago mind you, my dad was not someone you would nominate for father of the year. He didn’t pay child support, he didn’t send birthday cards. It took a long time for him to come around and realize what he was missing. He met an amazing woman who I am lucky enough to call my stepmom, and his life started to change. My brother and I went out to visit, and he came to see us. He was at my graduation and he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. We went on a family vacation together and we talked regularly about when we would see each other next. He turned into a real father. Better late than never I say. My father was not perfect, but he was always my father.
When word spread about his passing, some of my family reacted in a way I perceived as odd. They called with their initial condolences and a few sent cards, but the reaction was quite subdued in what I actually expected. Keep in mind; I have only one aunt on my dad’s side. I have grown up and been raised exclusively with my mom’s side of the family. I expected more. When my grandfather passed away 2 years ago, the outpouring of grief was tremendous. People came out of the woodwork to comfort my family. I couldn’t quite grasp why many people were so blasé about my father’s passing. Then I went to California for his funeral.
My father lived in California for 17 years. He had an extensive group of friends there, most of whom considered him like a brother. The outpouring of support was incomprehensible. My brother and I were submersed in love and support from people whom we had only met a couple of times at most. They lifted us up and reminded us what a great man our dad had turned out to be. They let us know that they would not forget our father and they would not let us forget.
What I started to understand though all of this is that when someone dies, we should not dwell on the person that passed, we should support those that have to go through the loss. And this is why my family and others had such a strange reaction to my father’s death. To them the man that died was the one who divorced my mom, the one who didn’t pay child support, the one who wasn’t there on our first day of school. Instead of focusing on the loss and heartache my brother and I felt, they were focused on the memory of the deadbeat dad that died.
I am hoping that something can be learned through all this. I am hoping that by writing this and by talking about things that we can open our eyes. Death is a part of life. It is not up to us to judge the person who passed, it us up to us to help the survivors deal with their loss. My stepmom lost her husband, the love of her life. While she should be grieving for herself, she instead texts and calls to make sure my brother and I are ok. My mom lost the father of her children, a man she used to be in love with, again, she should be grieving for her loss; instead she spends hours on the phone with me making sure my heart isn’t hurting too much when I turn off the light that night.
It’s time for us to look at the bigger picture. This world would not turn with utter selfishness. This world functions on the kindness of others. It’s when we can stop being selfish and start being a part of something bigger, that we will really realize what life is all about. I hope that in my life I can be the ideal version of that type of person. I believe it takes practice and that no one is perfect, but awareness is the first step.