This weekend Thatboy and I attended the funeral of a local peace officer. It was the first funeral I've attended since Thatdad's death. I'd never even met the man, but I was there to support Thatboy, who was there to support a coworker.
By the time we arrived at the church, three parking lots had already been filled, and that wasn't counting the 3 rows of police cars that blocked the street for half a mile in either direction. I don't know that I've seen so many uniforms in one place before, as each row was filled by men and women in black, blue, and brown. The funeral was attended by every law enforcement department, and not just the local ones. There were officers from all over the state, and according to the priest, the nation. They sat in groups, supporting each other, and mourning the loss of a man whom many of them had also never met.
When the coffin was brought out, surrounded by guardsmen, I began having a panic attack. My heart rate increased, I became warm, and my breathing started to get shallow and labored. Luckily my years of therapy have helped me to deal with situations like this and I was able to concentrate on slowing everything down. For the rest of the service, I silently wept. I wept for the man I had never met who gave his life and probably in doing so, saved others. I wept for the officer's family and fiancee, huddled together in the first row of the church. I wept because I know the road that lies ahead of them will only get darker and harder before there is even a glimmer of light. I wept for myself and all that I have lost reliving it as though it were fresh. As painful even a year after the fact.
It has officially been over a year since Thatdad's death. And February was unbearably difficult. I know it showed, because my coworkers kept telling me how terrible I looked - sick and tired. I didn't sleep much, and during the waking hours found myself as busy as I could be. And the busyness and lack of sleep were there own kind of solace. For when I had any time to myself, when I closed my eyes, the scenes would start.
One of the hallmarks of OCD is repetition. For some people it's physical repetition, turning the doorknob x numbers of times, or knocking on a counter between bites of food. For me, it's mental repetition - both the repetition of phrases as well as images played on a loop. I don't think I realized this wasn't normal until I saw the movie "The Aviator." Leonardo DiCaprio, playing Howard Hughes, would repeat the same phrase over and over and over again. After the movie I mentioned something about it to Thatboy about how the difference between Hughes and the average person, is that the average person manages to not verbalize this constant repetition - which is when I was informed that your average person doesn't repeat the same sentence in their head 20-30 times.
Last month, in the days leading up to the anniversary of Thatdad's death, when my brain wasn't occupied, it found a way to occupy itself. I would replay the drive up to Orange County on the day Thatdad died. Over and over, as if on a loop, Thatboy and I sitting side by side in the car, silently, as I clenched my jaw and repeated over and over in my head "Today will not be the day my dad dies." (Even in my repetitions I have OCD tendencies.) Each time I was filled with the same sense of fear that I had on that day, mingled with unbearable grief, because I knew how it would end.
You would think it would get easier as time passed, but grief is not linear. It doesn't keep track of days, weeks, years. It sits, virus like, laying dormant in the system until it can find an opening. The actually anniversary of the death was easier than I had expected. It was a day like any other. But there are some images that will forever be burned into my memory, and one of those was seeing his memorial plaque at the synagogue. Complete with dates marking the beginning and end of his life. To see them there, like bookends, was another reminder of how real the whole thing is.
I try to take solace in the fact that we have made it through the year, and therefore will continue to survive. But I know the emotions aren't something that will ever completely go away, as I was reminded this weekend. In times of joy and times of sorrow there will always be a tinge of sadness, coloring the occasion along the edges.