And, although I whole-heartedly appreciate the condolences, you need not feel sorry for me or my family. Eight years ago today was a day that I would never want to have to relive again. But, I'm writing today because I'd like to tell you a tale of what it feels like to be held.
I was living in Chicago at the time and was at a coffee shop writing something or other when the phone rang. I answered and it was my brother on the other line. He opened with, "I don't know how to say this..." And in the emotion of that opening was more than enough information. It still hurts now to remember him having to say it. But, I'm glad it was him, too. I'm glad it was my big brother on the other line.
But, the instant I realized what my brother was saying, I can say I was in shock. I stepped out into the street without my coat, my laptop still sitting on the table. Had it not been for the chill of a Chicago winter, I have no doubt that I would have just left them there.
When you feel that final goodbye, it leaves you staring at the darkness of some huge void and that void threatens to swallow you whole. And you don't even realize it. You don't really know where you are. The whole world rushes in full force at your face and, then, careens to a sudden stop. Everything stops.
I got home somehow. The phone call ended. And I cried and paced around the house, having no idea what to do or how to stop pacing. I called Ruth to tell her. She was in Pittsburgh doing a play and, at the time, she was having brunch with our friend, Ross Donaldson, and two of their mutual friends. And, as the phone was ringing, I had the feeling that I know my brother had before calling me. "How do you say it?"
And I can't remember what I said. But, whatever the words were, I'm certain they're the heaviest words I've ever had to say.
I didn't know what to do, how to get home to Ohio, how to do or be anything.
And I didn't need to. Ruth got off the phone and together she and Ross called everyone we knew in Chicago. Ross did not live in Chicago so he called people he had never met to say, "Shane's Dad passed away and he needs your help."
The next thing I knew, Steve Pasieka was at my door. As far as I know, there's no prep course for what to do when you're a first responder to a friend who just lost their father. But, if there is, it'll say one thing and it's exactly what Steve did. He gave me a hug and just sat there with me. We turned on a football game and sat there together.
Then, Thom Vacca and Anthony Devries arrived. Thom, having been through the loss of his father, did simple things around my apartment like literally helping me find a bag to pack, threw out all my trash and made sure the apartment was set for my return because he knew it would be some time before I would be back. Anthony immediately offered to drive me to Ohio, if needed. And, as crazy as that seems now, I know now and I knew then that he was 100% serious and would have done just that.
Then, Mike Balzer arrived. And, if the shock had dried up my well of tears, seeing this old friend of mine brought them gushing back. He held and consoled me. And, the next thing I knew, he purchased me an airplane ticket, drove me to the airport and I was on my way home.
I was met at the airport by someone (unfortunately, I can't remember who, but I offer the most heartfelt thanks and my apologies for blanking) and driven home to hold and be held by my Mom and siblings.
I don't know how to thank any of these people properly. Thanks is such a very simple word. And, on the contrary, love is a very complicated word. You can feel when it's there and you can feel the moment when you think it's gone. But, love has this ability to dim for a moment and come back revitalized. And, what's more, it can expand to something bigger than you ever imagined possible. It can work like a web and bring people together so that a guy without his Mother and siblings and girlfriend in Chicago does not grieve alone.
So, I give my love to you all and thank you for being there. Thank you for holding me.
And thank you for being there and holding me, too, Dad.
Originally Posted On Facebook.