Amanda Joy Photography

Legacy

Thoughts About Grief

Legacy, PersonalAmanda Mohinani1 Comment

A few months ago, a friend of mine asked me to write a post for her blog. I chose to write a piece about grief because that’s what I was thinking about and dealing with at the time. Today is my dad’s 2 year anniversary of being done with his journey on earth and starting his new adventure in heaven… so it seemed fitting to share the piece in this space on this day.


Psalm 4:8 (HCSB)

I will both lie down and sleep in peace,

for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.

It’s late. Or early. Either way, I should be sleeping.

I toss and turn yet again and as I roll over I glance at the clock. 5:50 AM.

Before I can stop them, images of my dad flash through my mind. Gasping for air, his lips  parched and his eyes blank. His body thin and frail; a shadow of himself - as though it had forgotten what it meant to be whole.

It was just a little before 6 AM on that chilly Wednesday morning almost two years ago that his body took one last breath and then stopped. Forever done with its long, fruitful journey on this earth.

I always seem to wake up around this time, as though my body wants me to relive those last few moments of his life over and over. I hate that I remember his death so vividly, but part of me never wants to forget. Because if I lose that memory then I lose part of him.

Grief is confusing. While it hits all of us in different ways, at some point in each of our lives we all come face to face with loss. Pain. Hurt. And while I’m no expert on dealing with the emotions that accompany death, I’ve collected a few lessons in my on-again-off-again relationship with grief.

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Grief comes in waves.

It’s a pretty common analogy, and with good reason: grief can be very well described as waves on the shore. Sometimes they crash with enough force to knock you on your tail as you go under and swallow salt water while grasping for solid ground. And sometimes they gently caress your toes as a simple reminder that these emotions still exist even if they’re held safely beneath the surface.

Some days are harder than others.

For me, anniversaries can be hard. But harder still are the days leading up to those significant birthdays and holidays. It’s as though the wave comes before I expect it and then when the important day arrives and I’m ready and expecting all the emotion to pour of my heart, I feel nothing but emptiness. Maybe the expectation of grief hits me in full force, so that once the anticipated day hits I’m drained of any remaining emotion.

Not all memories are sweet, but all are important.

Some people choose not to watch their loved ones die. Others don’t even get the choice. It’s a painful and traumatic experience for a lot of people. For me, the memory of my dad’s death is one that still haunts me; but I will never ever regret being present for those last few days. While saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, it’s made me a stronger person and it’s helped me appreciate and understand the grief of others. Each moment of that experience has something unique to teach me - even if I don’t know what that is quite yet.

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Allowing other people into your grief is hard work.

Maybe it’s just me, but sharing the pain of losing my dad has been an intensely personal and messy experience. It’s messy because sometimes people don’t really know what to say, so they say something cheap and empty. Or sometimes they say too much and you feel overwhelmed. Or sometimes they don’t say enough and you’re left longing for comfort. Or sometimes it’s a mix of all three in one moment and you end up feeling confused and angry with yourself for not even being able to grieve right. As if there was even a right way to grieve.

Grief changes you forever.

Grief isn’t just something that happens to you, it’s something that becomes part of you. Much like giving birth to this new daughter of mine, long after the physical trauma subsides, she will always be part of me - quite literally.

In the same way, grief isn’t just an event with a start and end date, as though one day it will magically disappear. It becomes part of your heart, part of your life, and part of your emotions. You live differently, interact differently, and - most importantly - love differently.

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About a year after my dad’s death, his brother (my uncle) shared this poem with me. When I read it, it helps me breathe better; as if I’ve been given permission to not worry about how or when I grieve - but to simply embrace that it will always be present.
 

Grief

by Gwen Flowers

I had my own notion of grief.

I thought it was the sad time

That followed the death of someone you love.

And you had to push through it

To get to the other side.

But I'm learning there is no other side.

There is no pushing through.

But rather,

There is absorption.

Adjustment.

Acceptance.

And grief is not something you complete,

But rather, you endure.

Grief is not a task to finish

And move on,

But an element of yourself-

An alteration of your being.

A new way of seeing.

A new definition of self.

Healed and Whole

LegacyAmanda Mohinani2 Comments

On October 12, 2016, my dad finished the race he had been running for 62 years. His battle with cancer is over, and he is now healed and whole - no more pain, no more suffering, and no more cancer. He's with Jesus now. He's home. 

I was privileged to spend the last days of his life with him, and that experience is one I will never forget. 

I took these photos a few days before his death, and decided to leave my camera packed up after that. Although I have countless images of his journey through cancer, chemo, radiation, surgery and so much more, the end of his battle with cancer is not one I wanted to remember through photos. I did not want to experience my father's death with a camera in front of my face. 

Death is an ugly, painful, hard thing - and yet it comes for all of us. Dad knew his life was almost finished, and spent the last several months soaking up every moment with family, arranging details to make sure his wife of 41 years would be taken care of, and speaking words of blessing into his children and grandchildren's lives.

If there was a way to finish strong, my dad did it. 

I want to thank all of you for coming on this seven year journey with me. When I started photographing stories back in 2008, I had no idea that my dad and my family would become one of my favorite (and possibly most difficult) stories to share. And although it's been a long seven years - full of struggle, heartache, and pain - I wouldn't change any moment. I had an amazing dad. 

 

I'll finish by sharing the words I read at my dad's memorial service last week. These words had been forming in my head since May, but came suddenly and clearly to me in the middle of the night a few days before the service. I'm so glad I shared them, and I'm so glad that I had such an amazing father. I'll never forget his life and legacy. 

Good morning, my name is Amanda and I am Paul's youngest daughter and most favorite of all his children! :) You see, Dad and I are both babies of the family, which means neither one of us is very shy and we're both used to being the center of attention. ;) This is a shared trait with my dad that I have always treasured and it brought me a special connection with him that I feel no one else in my family had.

But didn't we all feel that special connection? My dad was no stranger to people. Whether you were sitting next to him on an airplane or across the room at a restaurant, my dad could walk up to a complete stranger and make them instantly feel at ease by genuinely caring about who they were. He could walk into a room not knowing a soul, and leave it moments later knowing pretty much everything about everyone. More than anything, people felt like dad was their friend, and if they ever needed anything, he would be their guy

My dad was an engineer - through and through. A man who loved to figure things out and understand how things worked.  Even in his last and less coherent hours here on earth, he was muttering 2's and 4's and gazing at the ceiling fan and wondering how the switch on the wall made it turn on like it did. This made him an amazing engineer and an excellent boss (some have graciously said the best boss they ever had), not only because he had the drive to find solutions, but also because he felt like there were few questions that didn't have answers. Ever the teacher, dad had many friends, coworkers, and even superiors that would bring him their questions about work and life and even God and he would graciously and patiently sit with them to help them find answers.

There was one question that dad had that he didn't have the answer to yet. Several hours after his death, some of my siblings and I sat around the kitchen table wondering curiously about dad's first few hours in heaven and light-heartedly asked each other what dad's first question to God would be. Then we remembered: dad already had his first question picked out years ago - long before his fatal journey with cancer even began. It's a question that I think sums up the man, the leader, the husband, and the father that my dad was and shows the true humility of his heart.

"Why Me?" 

Dad's first question to God would not be one of theology or philosophy (although he dearly loved both).

Dad's first question to God would not be one of anger or disappointment or bitterness at the journey and life that God called him to, although it was, at times, a long and difficult road.

Dad's first question to His Savior would be one of awe and amazement at why the King of the universe decided to love and chose him.

HIM. 

Paul. 

Just a regular guy with a special gift for loving people, a brain that never stopped solving puzzles, and a childlike wonder for the God in whose presence he now worships - healed and finally whole.

This is my dad. 

If you're interested in reading anything more about my dad's story, you can visit his CaringBridge here: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/paul_I_norman.