Five years ago today, I woke up from my post-Market Day nap to a raft of messages from family members on my answering machine.
It took awhile, but I finally managed to track down my then-19-year-old niece and ask her what was going on.
"I don't want to tell you."
"Well, that's fine, but you have to."
She took a deep breath and said, "Granddad died."
Do you know, even after all these years, I'm still waiting for that sentence to end differently.
"Granddad had another heart attack and you need to go see him," maybe. Or "Granddad's dying."
But nothing so final, so absolute as "He died."
When my sister was dying, years and years ago, I was with her, as were my parents, and I thought to myself, this is how it will be. I'm here with Eileen and I'll be there with each of them.
But Dad died, so quickly, I never had the chance to make good on the promise he didn't know I had made.
Life changes, completely, when you lose that first parent. In ways you can't even describe or really understand, it changes.
And you learn things. Some good, some bad, some things you don't want to ever know, ever.
One of the good things I have learned is that our relationships with our loved ones don't end with their death.
I'm not talking about the afterlife, or anything metaphysical. I don't know anything about that and I don't care to.
But I do know that my relationship with my father has continued for the last five years. Has changed. Has grown. Has deepened. I like him better. I'm still learning from him.
And knowing that, knowing that if I live to be an old lady, that relationship, those relationships will still be with me brings me so much comfort.