Why It's Necessary to Embrace a Death Day

Three years ago today, I lost my dad to colon cancer. It was a Monday and it sucked. I'll never forget that day, but I will always try to.

The decline was pretty fast and we knew the inevitable was coming. We'd been given a whopping eight months to prepare for it. And when I say "prepare for it," I say it with a laugh, because it's three years later and I'm still not feeling all that prepared. I'm sure I could poll a crowd of thousands who've lost a parent (or anyone, really) many years ago and most of them would agree. You're never really ready.

Regardless, days rolled into months, which rolled into a year and boom! There it was. July 26, 2011. D-day. Death-aversary, or as my family refers to it with laugh-or-you'll-cry sense of humor, Death Day. At first, we didn't know what to do with it. Do we get together? Do we call each other? Do I say something to my mom? She knows I know, I know she knows... so is saying something really necessary? My mom and sisters and I each observe it differently. Some wanted to treat themselves to expensive gifts, because "you can't take the money with you when you die"; others wanted to talk it out, and I, in true millennial fashion, tweeted out a favorite old photo and called it a day. What was I supposed to do? It was just a day, right?


Never externally acknowledging it wasn't going to cut it. It arrives every year, like clockwork. It's the type of day you know all of the people that care about you remember, but you also hope they will forget. There is the idea of going about your business like it's any old day of the year, but that is utterly impossible.

It's a hard to day explain. Literally the opposite of a birthday. I associate the anticipation of waiting for your birthday to arrive with smiles and hand-clapping and depending on your age or excitement-level, even a little squealing. Anticipating death day is a lot of eye-rolling, deep breathing, loud sighs and an occasional tear or two.

If I could just skip from July 25 to July 27, I certainly would, but it's more about the date than the actual day. July 26... yuck. It will always bring a knot to my stomach and a little lump in my throat. It is, however, just a day, and the really bad July 26 already happened three years ago. So, why is this a day I dread more so than any other?

This July 26, I woke up like normal and was actually halfway through a yoga class before the date actually registered. Yes, I had been thinking about it all week -- all month, even. Dreading it, trying to ignore it, trying to pretend like it's not a thing. But it is. The first two years ignoring that it was happening were not all that effective, so I decided to switch it up.

This year, I embraced the Death Day idea. I took a little time (in the form of this blog) to acknowledge that July 26 really sucks and will until the day people are "celebrating" my death day. But that's just life. So, instead of ignoring these "milestones," we find ways to cope and we find ways to get through the really sucky times -- even if that means having a few Death Days on our calendars.