Mudty Relationships: An Essay in Closure - Part 11

This post is part of an 11 part essay that I have written in memory of my father, Tod “Mudty” Eaton, who passed away in August 2018. On this blog, I had previously shared the eulogy I gave at his Celebration of Life, which I think was a meaningful public goodbye to him.  This essay though is a bit more complex and nuanced in drawing out the final days of my father’s passing and how I reconciled his life, his death, and our relationship.  It’s a deeply personal essay that I have spent many hours on for the past year and with the encouragement of kind friends, have chosen to share.  

Additionally, if you feel so moved, I would encourage you to donate to my fundraiser for Care Dimensions, the hospice home that made his final days more comfortable for all of us.  
Trevor, Allison, Paula, Tod, Christine, and Lance Eaton at a Japanese restaurant.
Trevor, Allison, Paula, Tod, Christine,
and Lance Eaton, circa 2016

Part 11: Reflecting

A year has passed since this all started. Our lives have moved one. The house was cleaned out. We carry or have dispersed with his ashes. Plenty of days go by for me that I don’t think of him.

Yes, there are times, I still reflect on his passing and, more importantly, his life. The most definitive difference is that there are no new memories. His death has set him in amber; forever alive in memories but nothing new forthcoming. Instead, I must recycle, re-remember, and wonder about how things might have been otherwise. I catch myself looking at photos and hoping I had something better, but he was not sentimental in that regard; I guess I get that from my mom.

Maybe it’s because I’m his age when I was born or maybe his absence makes it most evident, but I remember my father most in my movements and gestures. I feel like he looked when shuffling in the middle of the night or sitting at a desk and reaching for a mouse. I perform tasks that were second nature to him such as holding doors like a professional door-person or spelling out my name last name when first asked by someone. It can be eerie—as if his spirit nudges me-- and it makes me wonder how long had I been embodying his movements and not realized it. Ultimately, these echoes make me realize that I am my father’s son.

Losing loved ones can be hard—even under the best of circumstances, to which I consider this experience. Whenever the discussion has come up that my father passed away in the last year, I get condolences. I understand why people express them but I do my best to assure them that I am sad he is gone, but also, I am happy his passing went as it did. He had a passing that so many of us wish we could have: long enough to say goodbye to loved ones, short enough so that pain was minimal. We cared for him throughout and sat vigil with him till his last breath. In a world, where so many of us do not get such a send-off or such closure, condolences feel unnecessary; mostly because I feel not that I have lost someone but thankful that I have gotten to say goodbye to someone in all the ways that matter.

Tod, Paula, and Trevor Eaton sitting at a restaurant table, talking animatedly.

No one gets out of this alive; I learned that lesson from my father and it’s no less true for me than it was for him. While I spent too many years attempting and ideating about suicide to which my father had some role to play, he also guided me to appreciate life, respect death, and be kind. That wisdom might have taken longer to stick but those are the lessons that saved my life in the end and allowed me to be by my father’s side at the end of his.

But from the moment I began writing this piece and knowing that I was witnessing my father’s death, I knew that I had to start with that confrontation when I was 15. I told myself that it was because I needed to contrast the kindness we gave one another at the end as powerful bookends to our relationship. That still holds true. And yet, the rebellion from my father was a choice toward saving my own life, and though reluctant about my choice, he ultimately accepted the path I chose. And that may have been the truest element of what I struggled with throughout this: accepting a daily decision of his (which I believed in the long-term) would and did kill him while not taking out my anger, frustration, and fear of that possible outcome on him and our relationship.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  If you haven't read the essay in full or have missed previous parts, feel free to navigate to other parts from the links below:

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