“On May 3, 2017, my family was struck with the horrific news my father had been killed in a skiing accident. This great loss has, does now, and forever will affect my family. My father, known by many as a great husband, father, brother, teacher, protector, and friend, was a lifetime learner. He consistently sought to expand his knowledge and intellect and encouraged others to do the same. As a charismatic businessman, he was always working hard, seeking to build his strengths as an expert communicator, a critical thinker, and an advocate for others. In addition to his ability to navigate personal and business relationships, he was also an expert world traveler, too.
Being a truth seeker and lover of diverse cultures, my father was always keeping an eye out for the next big adventure that would allow him to experience the beauty that the world has to offer. Wherever he went, there could be found great energy, laughter, and, without a doubt, deep and meaningful conversations. His ability to connect with others enabled anyone to turn to him for strength and guidance during personal challenges.
I still remember every little detail of that horrific day, mostly because of how it was such an out-of-body experience for me, and with the depth of my emotions, I couldn’t handle it. I left the house early that morning and yelled goodbye to both my mother and father. I was the last of my siblings living at home and I had just been engaged to be married that July.
My father suffered from chronic pain in his neck due to a car accident he was in back in 1994. As a result of the accident, his neck was surgically fused and he was sentenced to a lifetime of discomfort. His pain had gradually increased over time and was becoming nearly unbearable. The only activity that allowed him to experience the feeling of freedom and liveliness he loved so deeply was skiing. Skiing was his escape from pain, both physically and mentally. The combination of his love for adventure and his desire to be freed from pain are what put him on the slopes the morning of his accident. He just needed one more day before the season came to a close and he was back to a 6-month bout of miserable pain.
At around 1:00 p.m. on May 3, I was following my usual schedule for the day. I drove home from work and pulled into my driveway to find two police officers parked in front of my house. I walked to the front door and immediately the officers approached me, proceeding to ask questions. They asked about the location of my mother, hoping to get in contact with her as soon as possible. The whole situation was upsetting because, despite my asking, they wouldn’t tell me what was going on. They simply repeated, ‘You will find out soon, we can’t disclose any information.’
At that moment, I thought my dad had been in a fight with someone on the mountain or had done something crazy that had gotten him into some kind of trouble. For some strange reason, snowboarders always happened to be ‘in his way,’ so truthfully, I wasn’t very surprised. So I waited. After a few minutes, I called my mother and told her what the officers had told me, that she needed to meet with the police up at Snowbird Ski Resort. She then told me she would call me back to shed some light on the situation. Despite the strangity of the day, I had no worries about my father and went about my business as usual; I had homework to do.
Roughly an hour and a half later, as I was sitting at the kitchen table taking care of some wedding planning, I heard the door open, and a moment later, it was silent. The silence struck me as strange. I didn’t hear my father’s loud voice complaining in an almost comical tone, no explanations, no laughter. Only a sharp, deafening silence. My heart and breathing fell still. Without a word of explanation from anyone, I knew at that moment I would never hear my father’s voice again. I knew I would never see his face, hug him, or laugh with him ever again.
My mother walked into the kitchen, looked at me, and began to weep. She opened her mouth to tell me my father had been in a tragic accident, but all I can remember is my body going completely numb, as I started to cry not knowing what to do, think, or say. All I could hear was my poor mother repeating between her sobs the words, ‘He’s gone, Lex, he’s gone.’
My emotions took control of me and I immediately fell out of my chair onto the ground in complete shock and despair. My mind sped to a million miles per hour, bouncing back and forth between a plethora of things I can only vaguely recall. My poor mother was now alone, 54 years old, and alone. My father would never attend my wedding, he would never meet any grandchildren, he was gone. How would we pay for anything? My fiance was in England, how would I tell him? At 54, my father was too young to die. This only happens to other people, not me. Why me? Why now? Questions continued to race through my head and I couldn’t believe I was… ‘the girl whose dad died.’ Why us? I just wanted to soon wake up from this horrendous nightmare.
My mother and I embraced and sobbed for what seemed like an eternity. I told her she needed to tell my three older sisters. I was then forced to sit in agony, holding my mother’s hand as she repeated the same paralyzing story to each of my sisters individually, hearing the cries of despair they each rendered, each one a psychic blow. Within 30 minutes, our entire family was together, crying, wishing to wake up from what used to be only a nightmare, but was now reality. To add insult to injury, news stations and websites began releasing their heartless commentary of the accident, based solely on rumor, which sent a hoard of friends and acquaintances to our door and into our inbox. We were forced to notify others before they came asking the same relentless questions, none of which we could answer.
Then night fell upon us and worse became worse. Friends, neighbors, and even strangers with their endless visits, their mindless questions, all begging my mother to repeat the same terrible news, over and over again. I couldn’t stand to listen to her retell it to one more group of visitors. They were able to go back to their lives, while we had to learn to live with our new ones. Our house was packed with people, food, flowers, and suggestions on how to deal with death. If ‘Death for Dummies’ were a book, I’m certain we would have found it among the piles of stuff. I’m still not sure how we survived the following 24 hours, but we did.
Soon enough friends and family slowly trickled out of the house, leaving just eight of us together. We had reached the point of grief-stricken exhaustion, ‘all tear’d out’ I suppose. With weak bodies and puffy eyes, we all attempted to sleep which, of course, was to no avail. I slept with my mother for months, because I couldn’t bear the thought of her being alone and not grieving together. The funeral came and went and I was then forced back into life which was impossible to do.
I soon realized grief is much more than a period of sadness. Grief hijacks life. It slows us down, makes us lose our appetite, our desire to do anything other than fade away into nothingness or get back what we lost. The days, months, and weeks that ensued have turned into a blur, but unfortunately, a blur I can vividly relive. An out-of-body experience hell I can so easily re-enter once I close my eyes at night or worse, during the day. I have been changed to the core because of this experience—as anyone would be given the same circumstances. This is not an experience one can simply ‘get over.’ It is always with you, whether a boulder on your back or a pebble in your pocket, it is a part of you.
I believe Megan Devine put it perfectly, ‘Grief is a selfish time, and it should be. You have to live this. You have to find a way to be here in this world that no longer makes sense.’ Nothing in my life made sense. Normal tasks became hard and my light began to fade. Eventually, it came back. Although, it came back different and in a new way which allowed me to become my new self. The sooner I realized the truth behind this quote, the sooner I could actually begin to heal. ‘The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor Should you be the same nor would you want to be.’
Although it never becomes ‘okay’ you’ve lost someone, it does become bearable and your life starts to become your own again. All it takes is time, and there is no limit to how much time it might take, but it does become bearable. However, we can see that life experiences change us, and in the end, give us new meaning and new understanding we wouldn’t have been able to gain in any other way. For me, my family and I continue to do things that celebrate and honor my dad. One year after his death we went to Peru (a place he lived and had always hoped to take us.) We make a continued effort to talk about him and honor him.
My grief has truly shaped me and has made me who I am today. In the end, I have learned we don’t choose our lives, but instead, we get to live our lives and live them the way we want. Hard things make us stronger and at times even better, and we become more refined because of them. Joe Biden put my feelings of grief perfectly, ‘There will come a time when you think of the person you have lost (and it takes a long while). When you will get a smile on your face before you shed a tear and that’s when you know you’re going to make it.'”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alexa Norton from Salt Lake City, Utah. You can follow their journey on Instagram here and here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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