“I’m pretty sure he was flirting.  Definitely hitting on her.”

“That is so gross!  Dad just died.”

My brother, sister and I went back and forth like my mother was not in the room.

“Do you think he has always wanted her?  Maybe, just a little bit?”

“Ahem, can we proceed?”  the minister cleared his throat as he was growing tired of our banter.  We continued to plan the order of the eulogies, the hymns, and the program for our father’s funeral. 

When we look back, we all fall into a fit of giggles over how inappropriate this conversation was.   At the time, it seemed perfectly logical to be discussing our mother’s love life with the minister who was planning our father’s funeral.  

These stories are funny today when I share them with my siblings.  The tuna melts we devoured in the hospital cafeteria, the homemade smoothies we would deliver when he asked for Brigham’s shakes, and the dinners with our cousins.  We laugh through our tears reminiscing.   At thirty, twenty-six, twenty, and ten years old, we were clueless on how to deal with the death of our Dad.  We didn’t know many people who lost a family member and were forced to learn how to cope together.  

Nineteen years later, many friends have since joined the Dead Parents Club.  I can look at my experience as a great lesson on how to be helpful to others.  My parents collectively went through three rounds of aggressive chemo and I watched a lot of chemo cocktails get absorbed.  I have learned what is helpful, and how to lend support.  I do not say “let me know what I can do?”  I deliver granola, tea, meals, booze. Lots of booze.  

When I was learning to feed my newborn son next to my Dad’s hospital bed,  I was filled with moments of despair and “why me?”  Today, when I share a photo, a song, a memory, I am immediately connected with others experiencing the same ride of emotions.  If a wave of sadness hits, I have grief sisters I can reach out to and we can work through it together.  Feeling pretty fortunate to be part of the sisterhood of the traveling grief.