Beyond Illness: Coping With Loss

Leslie Rott Health Guide
  • When I was diagnosed with lupus and RA in 2008, at the age of 22, I never imagined that anything worse could happen.  I’d hit my rock bottom, and life could only get better from there. 


    But, unfortunately, life has gotten worse before it has gotten better. 


    On August 11, 2014, my 29th birthday, I arrived home from a nice dinner with my boyfriend to be inundated on Facebook with posts about severe flooding in Metro Detroit.


    I immediately texted my mom to make sure that she, my dad, and my sister were okay.  She told me that she didn’t know where my dad was, and had not heard from him in three hours.

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    My dad worked about 45 minutes from home.  The last time my mom had spoken to him, he said he was pulling off the freeway, in search of higher ground to wait out the storm. 


    When my sister texted me at 6 a.m. the next day to tell me that my dad had not returned home the night before, I knew something was terribly wrong. 


    I won’t go through all of the details of the ordeal, for which there are enough to fill a book (which I plan on writing), but I found out at around 9 p.m. on August 12, 2014, that my dad was found dead in his car.  He was parked on a residential street and was away from water.  We don’t really know what happened to him. 


    All we know is that my dad, husband, father, and son, was taken from us way too soon in a senseless tragedy. 


    I had a visceral reaction to this happening.  I cried so hard, I couldn’t breathe.  I could barely walk, barely stand up.  And at that moment, I would have welcomed the pain of lupus and RA, only so that the physical pain would match the emotional pain. 


    It’s been 10 weeks since my dad died.  Some days are easier than others, although waiting for answers that I will never have feels particularly cruel. 


    I think of all the things my dad will miss.  My graduation this May, my sister’s graduation from college in a few years, my future wedding, my future children, and all of the little things that we take so much for granted when a person is alive. 


    I never imagined that I would lose a parent at the age of 29 (literally, the day I turned 29).  And I never expected the universe to hit me with something worse than illness.  It doesn’t seem fair, and yet it happened anyway. 


    It’s seems crazy that life can move forward without my dad, but I know I must go on. 


    I’m still waiting for the flare that is inevitable after the heartache and stress of the last two months. 


    When I found out I had lupus and RA, I left the hospital feeling like life had changed, but only I perceived the change.


    While it’s hard for people to understand what I am going through now, given that there wasn’t enough room in the sanctuary of the funeral home for all of the people that attended the funeral service, it is a testament that other people’s lives have changed, too, as a result of my dad’s llife, and unfortunately, death. 


    Humans are flawed beings.  When something bad happens, we say we are going to change, that we are going to get better at calling and seeing friends, at cherishing the little things, and taking nothing for granted. 


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    But inevitably, the next bad thing happens without us ever really making the changes we talked about. 


    Friends of mine attended the funeral that I hadn’t seen or really talked to since I moved to New York.  And it hit me that what really matters in life is the people we surround ourselves with, the people that we are lucky enough to call family and friends. 


    I hope from this senseless tragedy, I can learn to be a better person, a better daughter, a better sister, a better girlfriend, and a better friend.


    And I hope that I can move forward in my life, and not always be on alert for the next bad thing to happen, because I’ve lived that way before, and it is truly no way to live. 


    I am so lucky to have had my dad in my life for 29 years, but I will miss him always and forever.  

Published On: October 29, 2014