Scribbles from R Scott Jones
May 29th, 2024

Pre-mourning

#WeblogPoMo2024

My dad passed away recently after spending the last four years in an assisted living facility after a sudden health crisis in 2020. But for 20 years before that, he was a near-daily regular at his local pub, The Dubliner.

Yesterday, I returned to the Dub for the first time since his death to see his old bar friends and answer any questions they had about what life had been like for him these last several years. After all, I'm pretty sure that only a few had been able to talk directly with him since then, and the life change had been quite sudden. I figured that some folks might want a few more details.

A lone glass of MGD sits on a wooden bar
An untouched bottle of MGD, in Norm's honor, guards his old regular seat at the bar.

I won't relive all of the conversations, but one comment really stuck out.

One of his good friends—who had stayed in touch regularly and came down to visit him in the facility more than once—said that most of his friends there had already mourned Norm. For them, they lost him four years ago, when he moved away and never returned.

And while they all raised a glass yesterday, and told stories, and reminisced, and made sure they each bought me a round of beer, it was in the manner you might on the anniversary of a death, not immediately after one. But for me, it's still incredibly fresh, still quite raw—hell, I haven't even received his cremated remains back yet.

Which, of course, makes perfect sense, but was also something I hadn't considered before. And it also explains why more of them hadn't made it down to see him in the last two years. He was already lost, at that point, especially when he went on hospice in 2021. And even though I was eventually able to wheel him over to a local bar near his facility, and he was subsequently removed from hospice later that year, well...for so many of them, he was already gone by then. They had moved past it. They had pre-mourned his actual death by mourning the loss of his regular company.

This is in sharp contrast to my own experience, of course. These regulars spent a lot of time with my dad—having near-daily interactions with him—up until four years ago.

For me, the exact opposite was true. Sure, I saw him regularly before, but my own "near-daily status" started in 2020—just as theirs ended.

Of course, overall I had the much longer and deeper relationship, but proximity mattered. For me, Norman was always on my mind because I was, right now, managing his entire life. For them, he was now a fun story from the past. He remains someone they miss seeing, certainly, but those moments only happen when someone triggers an old memory.

My dad and I at the Dubliner in 2017.
My dad and I at the Dubliner in 2017.

I wish I had better understood this much, much earlier—back when it probably mattered a bit more. But of course, I didn't know much about my dad's bar friends, and I was simply struggling to keep my own head above water. The change was hard on him, and on his relationship with his friends, and just as much or more, on my wife and I who had to drop everything to figure it all out, and then manage it for several tough years.

We're in the process of planning his memorial, but we have no idea how many people to plan for. I suspect that my experience last night will guide us a bit more than I would have initially guessed. The last few times I asked my dad about what he might want upon passing, he didn't really want any sort of service—even the fun, Irish-wake-at-the-bar style celebration we currently have in mind.

I wonder if he had a better sense of this pre-mourning than I did.

[22/31] for #WeblogPoMo2024
[24/100] for #100DaystoOffload