Shocking: Sometimes Death Helps

My dad and I are getting along much better these days.

Which is interesting, especially considering he has been gone for more than six years now.

Gone in the sense of he passed away.

Gone in the sense of it was his time.

Gone in the sense that what’s left of him, here in my heart, finally feels good.

The enormity of the positive and negative influence my father had on me was twisted together like a mighty tornado zooming across the countryside.

There was Dream Dad who made our lunches, attended every sporting event, spoiled us, showed us the country.      Dream Dad who was present for us kids and so many of our friends at a time when a lot of divorced dads were not around.

And there was Twisted Dad, making questionable choices financially, not understanding proper physical and emotional boundaries.

“Who are you to say what’s appropriate?” he would question when I would complain I didn’t feel comfortable with some of his words and actions.

Dear Reader have you had to make sense of a love that did so much good and harm at the same time?

From here, I can see it is not an accident it took me until 49 to get married for the first time. There was a lot of unraveling to do of good and bad before I was ready to pick a good husband.

The death of someone you love can be horrifying, heart ripping, knock you to your knees, causing earth-shattering pain.

It can.

And then there is the thing that really no one dares to say, at least never did to me.

So I will to you.

Sometimes, death helps.

These days, I smile when I rip out a hole in a piece of bread to make a “Cowboy Egg” for my daughter, just like my dad used to make for me.

I laughed talking to my Dad a lot during the Final Four basketball tournament, as we always used to fill out brackets together. Those twin brothers, Aaron and Andrew Harrison on the Kentucky team would have fascinated him.

“Always thought I’d have twin sons starring on a sports team,” he used to say.

The twins never came along, but three of us kids did, each one with a twisted, challenging relationship with him.

From where he is now, I know he’s proud of each of us when we pick ourselves up after each of our failures.

“Walk it off,” he’d command no matter the wound physical or emotional demanding of us the very thing he was not able to do himself.

In death, I don’t have to worry about his making terrible choices, about feeling responsible for cleaning up his messes.

In death, I can just enjoy him.

In death, I can appreciate that he had a pretty warped childhood and rose up the best he could. Doesn’t forgive many of his choices, but explains them.

So why share now? Good question.

It’s not his birthday or Father’s Day. Something just told me that a Dear Reader needed to hear this week, that yeah, sometimes death helps.

Truth is except for an occasional serial killer no one is completely bad or completely good.

Truth is sometimes leaving is the biggest gift the person you love can give you.

My dad did.

It helps me love him more than ever.


Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.




  • Lb

    As I visited my Dad’s grave on the one year anniversary of his passing this weekend, I was left wondering what was I doing there? Tribute? No. Respect? Probably not deserved. But I was drawn to make the 5 plus hour drive, all the same. Your column in the AJC on Sunday was written for me. Thank you. For a whole year there has not been one phone call reminding me of my failings as a daughter or leaving me wanting to hurl the phone across the room. For one year, I have been allowed to heal. I am hopeful that the years that follow will allow my heart to soften and facilitate enjoying the good memories I know are lurking beneath the turmoil of the past. Thank you for your honesty and the hope it gives me.

  • Susan

    Daryn, I really appreciate the truth and honesty of this column. Thank you for having the courage to write it.

  • Coleen

    Thank you for your column on Sunday. I’m now able to appreciate my father’s contributions (such as they were) as he I think he did the best he could.

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Shocking: Sometimes Death Helps

by DarynKagan time to read: 2 min
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