He’s gone. As much as I felt I was prepared for this…..I wasn’t. Nobody ever is. There are so many questions flying through my mind at this moment. The sadness, the anger, the peace, the nostalgia, the feeling of having no control….the fear of having no control. All of these things vie for supremacy within myself. This is grief and it is completely natural but it doesn’t make it any easier. I often intellectualize my emotions. Is it a coping mechanism? A world without my dad. My sister calls this the “new normal”, and sadly….it is. And it feels anything but normal.
I try to imagine every detail, down to the smallest one of my father’s last days on Earth. What did he sound like? Look like? How would I have reacted to seeing him in such a condition? My mom is a widow now, and my brother and two sisters no longer have a dad. He’s dead. I don’t even know what I believe concerning life after death. There is no scientific evidence to directly prove it but there are mountains of subjective material shared by those who have been close to death and by people who have been by those close to death. A few days ago, my dad told my mom that he saw a small child standing in his room with him. My mom shared it with the hospice staff and they told her that not too long ago, a little boy had died in the same room.
What was it like for my dad to have one leg in another world and his other in this one as his body and mind prepared to………stop and release him? What did he see? Where is he now? And why can I not follow him to maintain some semblance of contact that doesn’t rely solely on my memories of him? I don’t want him to be gone! Almost everybody I know still have both parents alive…why my dad? He was (still is) an inspiration to everybody that knew him — I am not saying that politely or generically, he truly was a mentor to too many people to count. He was strong, calm, a philosopher, a superior fighter when it was required, he was an immovable rock, someone that was not subject to the emotional whims or tantrums over life’s unpredictability. It was his support and active participation in helping my mother that she built her non-profit, “Tapestries of Hope” into an effective and successful grief support group for daughters whose mothers have died.
God damnit, he was a real man, a superior man. He filled my heart abundantly when he was alive, from my childhood to adulthood and now into fatherhood for the first time and I know it is that very abundance that will do it’s best to fill the void left in me now that he is gone. I wish he could be here as I raise my little girl with Sonia, it hurts so much that he won’t be.
Not even thirty days. From the first call I got from my mom telling me that dad has checked into the hospital and it might be the cancer that we thought he beat last year to 11:21 p.m. last night when he took his last breath…some would say that’s a long time. I don’t feel it was but I think I feel that way because I want him back. I had a week with him and I know there are plenty of people that don’t get that kind of time so for that I am deeply grateful. I miss him so terribly much. He was only 60! Out of the blue cancer showed up in his blood. Christ almighty. I just spoke with him no more than a couple weeks ago, we looked each other in the eyes, we talked about a great many things at length, things I will always keep in my heart, so precious are those memories. We made promises to one another.
Sobs rack my body. Tears stream freely and had these words found their way on paper, the ink forming them would run…forever, trying to find my father. I wish I could have held him, seen him one last time. I received pictures from my mom and two sisters of them preparing my dad for cremation, wrapped up snugly in beautiful blankets and twine. It’s beautiful indeed. It’s sad as well, though that isn’t my dad wrapped up in those blankets. My dad was too strong of a soul to be so contained, his enthusiasm for life, his compassion for others, his honor as a man and his terrible jokes that made you laugh at their…terribleness pushed into eternity last night, 39 minutes before Monday.
To anybody reading this, there is so much to live for in life and I truly hope you do just that. Appreciate everybody and everything you have. Never stop striving to improve your life and the lives of those around you. Love. Laugh. Leave your mark on this world, make memories with the people you care about and even with strangers — you may have improved their day just by smiling at them. Do not hold onto anger, hold no grudges, hold each other. Look beyond the darkness, the negativity, the violence and selfishness we are all bombarded by on a daily basis. Life is waiting to unfold from within you, seize every moment you can and make it worthwhile!
Dad, wherever you are, I hope you’re peaceful and happy. I hope you will still be able to see me as I live on and become a father. Everyday I will look fondly on the memories we’ve made and the incredible influence you’ve had on me — an influence that is still at work in transforming me into an amazing person, a caring and strong person. An influence whose echo will guide me into achieving my potential in life, becoming an absolute and sturdy force for good in this world. You’re a beautiful man and I love you with all of my heart. Goodbye, pop, journey well.
A man larger than life. A man who WAS life.