I never really thought about the number 22. I’ve known about the number in various contexts. It is the number worn by one of my favorite Dallas Cowboy players and all time NFL leading rusher, Emmitt Smith and also the name of a classic, favorite book of mine, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. 22 is the atomic number for salt on the periodic table of elements and for those Sarah Palin admirers it is the number she wore on her high school basketball jersey.
At this point, you may be asking, what is the big deal about the number 22? For me, now, I always anticipate the 22nd of every month, careful to not schedule any major life events on that day. On March 22, 2009, my father died. So every month, when the calendar hits 22, I pause for a moment, realizing that, as the dates move forward, I am getting farther and farther away from the last time I saw, talked, and hung out with my father.
I’ve heard to cope with losing a loved one, the single best remedy is time. This is a myth. I’m here to tell you the passage of time doesn’t heal everything. Every month, especially on the 22nd, I think of my father, laying on his hospice hospital bed, trying to grasp for his breath, not knowing when his last gasp would come. I hear the sounds of the oxygen blowing into the air. I remember hugging his lifeless body for the last time, smelling faint traces of sandalwood, his favorite soap.
I revisit this image every 22nd and have the exact same conversation with my husband about it. I ask him, “Can you believe it has been this many months since he has been gone?” I tell my husband, I miss my father so much. He says, “I know.” He can’t say anything else because there isn’t anything really to say. It has become a conversation I have, not knowing any better about how to deal with my grief. People assume that with time, things get a little better for those who have lost, but I believe that grief is almost heightened to new levels. I’ve learned that when challenged with extreme grief, sadness, melancholy, accept it for what it is. You cannot will it away.
It is best to make adjustments to cope, but honor the sadness you are feeling. You can’t bring closure to certain events in your life and so for me, thinking about my father, will be something I do everytime I run across the number 22. So to those of you who have experienced loss, honor your own personal number, remember and reflect.
* This post is dedicated to my father. I honor him through my words. He loved pens, paper, and most of all words. I love you and miss you Dad.