My garage was torn down today as a result of a huge tree that fell during the recent Hurricane Sandy. As I looked at the debris that was being pulled out I saw it. The blue bench that had been at my father’s home until he died four years ago here on Long Island.
As I looked at the broken blue bench, it was the first time in 8 days that I let myself feel sadness for my own loss, fear, anxiety, disorientation, and I acknowledge the frustration of the hardships we are ensuring without power, heat and hot water, not to mention the next few months of what will be personal and business complications as a result of Sandy.
The blue bench had been a fixture at my Dad’s backyard. He had painted the wooden bench blue because that was my mother’s favorite color and he missed her every day since she died in 2002.
The bench was located in near the pool in his beautiful backyard. My father died almost exactly 4 years ago from lung cancer. The bench is where he would sit outside for hours upon hours during the last years of his life, too tired from the lung cancer to do much else. Dad took great pride the plantings around his property. He had “supervised” as every single one was placed in the ground.
In fact, he could name each plant, tree and flower and would talk about how big they would be in the years to come. I recently visited the property and it took my breath away to see his vision come to fruition -they were all now incredibly beautiful, lush and large.
On the day of my sister’s wedding, two short months before he passed away he sat there on the bench and people would visit with him. The last picture taken of my father and I was from that day. He was seated on the bench and I was crouching down next to him. I love that photo.
In addition to the bench we lost more “stuff” on the day of the Hurricane when the huge oak tree crushed our garage and it’s contents. But we were luckier than so many of our friends, neighbors who endured such loss on October 29th, when Sandy roared onto the shores of the mid-Atlantic seaboard.
As I looked at the bench, cracked, broken beyond repair it reminded me of my father who, at the end of his life was broken beyond repair. The feelings at the time of his death of helplessness and frustration, of not being able to fix the situation, came rushing back to me. In that moment I could actually feel the fresh grief over my father’s death for all over again, symbolized by that bench, and multiplied by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the region.
My breath was taken away by the collective sadness over the loss of life, property and the safety and security that was literally washed away with the hurricane. That sadness is palpable and can be felt in the air up and down the East Coast.
As I chatted with a friend whose home was ravaged by the hurricane and the related floods he remarked how we are the lucky ones and that we have “headaches” vs. “heartaches” and he is right.
But just for today I allowed myself a moment of heartache.
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