Tag Archives: sadness

Disconnect to survive.

I recall that in the presence of death I have never felt so much love, seen such devotion given, such support lavished on my father and us, his family.  A man dies as he lived.  How do we live on after losing someone so integral to our life?  He wasn’t just my father, he was my mentor and role model.  He was the quiet strength that I never took full advantage of but craved and benefitted from whenever I called.

October in New Jersey.  Dad’s memorial service.  Out from the blue my body began to tremor.  My ma spoke into the microphone about my father and tremors turned to shaking.  I inhaled slowly, demanding of myself the impossible, that I had better keep my shit together.  No sooner had I finished telling myself that did I lose it.  My head dropped and my hands covered my mouth and then my face.  My stomach twisted and my heart wrenched.  I was sitting on a bench with a eulogy for my father in hand.  How?  Why?  My sister put her hand on my back – I was losing my mind, I wanted to scream.  I wanted to stop the service, as if shutting it down would deny the fact that my hero was dead.  Dead.  The word sounds so absolute.  And it is.  Life would always be the same but I would not.

I delivered his eulogy with a croak in my voice – I didn’t sound like myself to myself.  I looked into the crowd and saw two of my best friends, two people who have always opened their hearts and home to me over the years.  I knew him since first grade and his girlfriend for years.  It took everything I had not to break down and sob.  I needed, I wanted someone to hug me and not say a word.  I felt my strength waning as I spoke, panic setting in as I neared the end of the eulogy.  I flashed back to pulling up to the service in the car.  The honor guard waiting.  The Patriot Riders waiting.  Lawrence and Tonya watching their friend approach his father’s memorial service.  My mom barely holding it together, being reminded with each passing second why she was there, the hot pricks of the bitterness of loss nudging her forward through the service with me at her side and her other children in tow.  The sound of rifles unleashing in a 21 gun salute, causing me to shake violently, my mom squeezing her eyes shut with every round that went off. I was told it was a beautiful eulogy and I know everyone meant it.  I’m glad they thought it was beautiful; it was the most horrific experience of my life.

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My brother played the guitar and my mom sang to it to honor my dad.  My sister put on a hoop performance for him – I listen to that song she hooped to on loop sometimes for hours if I’m alone, as if it will somehow help me out of this shock.  “The Mountain” by Trevor Hall.  Way up on the mountain.  Mountains.  The mountains of Palm Springs, California that towered over Eisenhower Medical Center in California.

The evening of my arrival I walked my Dad through the halls of the hospital.  He gripped my forearm and walked with a cane in his other hand.  The last time I had seen him he was dressed and could walk on his own.  Now he was in a hospital gown and straining to breath as we walked, grimacing from the pain.  It wasn’t right.  It wasn’t right!!  My own father was dying right in front of me, it’s so fucked up.  I wanted to take the cancer from him, my daughter was due in June – just over two months away and I knew he wouldn’t be alive to be present at her birth, to be able to enjoy unrestricted access to his new granddaughter.  I begged and begged for my father not to be taken from us even though I knew it was just life unfolding.

At the end of our life we have lost so many people we care about and love – how do we survive to that point?  We will never be whole again, we live on as mosaics of shattered pieces – and I a new man, a new form that I did not ask for but must live on with.  Live on?  Food doesn’t have the same taste.  Music isn’t what I remember it to be.  I pause to take in the world around me and intellectually it all registers but emotionally there is nothing there and it lacks meaning.  Familiar places feel foreign.  Sometimes I don’t even recognize where I am yet at the same time can move about and get to where I need to be.  I am numb.

The only other time I feel like a participant in my life is when I am with my daughter.  Her smile, that beautiful smile and her laugh cause a warm rush within my heart.  Watching her open and close her hands as she looks right at me and raises her arms – such love!  I have no desire other than to lift her into my arms, look into her big beautiful blue eyes and tell her that I love her, that I would move the mountains for her.  She wears a lot of bows and headbands with flowers on them.  She should.  Her middle name is Rose and she’s more beautiful than the finest.  I am finally able to provide for her.  It took just under a year of unbroken determination, 13+ hour work days, broken bones and sweat to achieve liftoff but god dammit I did it and will continue to.  I have almost fully managed to put aside the numbness, the grief while at work.  I have to.  My Dad worked his ass off and had an unmatched work ethic to provide for us, to support our family and I will make sure I continue to do so for my mija.  I am a good father and little M deserves that.

Rarely am I afforded glimpses into my grief.  I don’t know whether to fear that or be grateful.  I still cannot fully accept that he is gone.  It can’t possibly be true.  I have too many amazing memories of him for his presence to be replaced with a vacuum, a void.  Grief seems so much bigger than mankind, transcendent of it.  Grief is a Gemini, it’s twin is love.  Love, a quality whose fullness does not depend on us for existence, but whose beautifully speechless nature illuminates our hearts, enriches life and compounds it’s purpose.

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The hollowing path.

Hindsight is not always kind. As time separates my dad and I, the more I realize just what a source of strength his existence was in my life, just knowing he was there. Reachable.

There’s been a deepening sense of sadness and loneliness I’ve felt more and more as time goes on. So far I haven’t been able to shake it. The world seems bigger and emptier. My house feels bigger and emptier. I feel detached from just about everything other than my daughter. I’m still working my hardest at my career every day so I suppose it’s more accurate to say that outside of my mija and dog training, I don’t feel……anything.

He reached out to my mom the other day which made me feel such relief for my mom. My brother and I have been praying for him to find a way to do that since he died and boy did he ever. It does, however make me miss him all the more and reminds me of that. I feel no anger about it anymore, just a deep sense of sadness and defeat. For now, the world seems grey. I wish I could talk with him again, see where he is. I almost feel like I’m flying blindly through life now. I’m sure many men feel this way when their father dies so believe me I’m not asking for pity.

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A foreign but promising land.

When I was younger, I often felt frustrated toward others when they did not share my passion for things, dismissing them as apathetic or shallow.  One of my best friends, Brandon, should have little trouble recalling those days, regularly hanging out with a Jesus Freak and pseudo-philosopher that studied anything and everything aside from the ordinary things that most 16-23 year olds enjoy.  I now understand how wrong that was to be so judgmental and dismissive.  A week into grief, into this foreign landscape, finding myself struck with such vivid and lucid visuals that it almost distorts my awareness of the real world, causing me to blankly stare and zone out, I understand that people cannot go where I go.  It is not their journey, the footprints that carve out this path are mine and that is how it should be.

No doubt others have experienced this walk before but I don’t expect others to come with me.  They simply can’t if they haven’t experienced it.  And that’s ok.  I don’t need to hear “I’m sorry”, “Sorry for your loss” or other well intentioned but well-worn phrases, ones that used to anger me because I thought they were a lazy ‘quick fix’ people used to escape the awkwardness or discomfort of a situation — in this case, grief.  I know people mean well and thank you for the support but I know I will be ok, that I will learn from this and change irrevocably because of this.  Grief does not need a cure, indeed there isn’t one.  I don’t need to hear about closure; one of the first things I have noticed a great many people talk about is healing and closure in the aftermath of a tragedy.  Healing and closure will come in due time and I have no interest in rushing either of those.  What is healthy is to fully feel and work through my grief.  Nor is time a cure.  Time can, however, bring perspective, wisdom….growth….laying on a mantle of inner strength and peace, helping me to continue to be open to life.

Sometimes I feel nothing.  Sometimes I cry with intensity that surprises even me.  Other times I feel incredibly optimistic or angry.  Sometimes I feel so sad that I almost cannot breathe.  It’s cyclical and somewhat unpredictable but it’s movement and I’m moving in a generally forward direction.  It’s a kaleidoscope of beauty and ugliness, filled with tests of character vs. habit and learning how to apply what you’ve learned and the impressions left on you by that person in your daily life.  I referenced a light my father kindled in my heart in earlier posts and it was no exaggeration nor was it an attempt to be poetic.  It’s a very literal description, the best I can do to explain his impact on me.  It’s a light that was never fully realized until he was gone, and I think that is the nature of it, it’s the nature of a great mentor’s influence (and blessed am I that I can call him my father).  He was cremated today.

I talk to him everyday.  Perhaps I am talking to nothing.  Perhaps not.  It’s irrelevant to me because in doing so, my memories of my father remain fresh and I feel connected to him.  I only knew him as my dad and I am ok with that.  Others knew him in a different light but I know that all of us may joyfully cite, reminisce, and reflect on common threads that were characteristically consistent in his many relationships with others.  His selflessness.  His compassion.  His optimism.  His discipline and inner strength.  His inner peace.  His humor.  His thirst for adventure.  His honor.  I think it’s uncommon in today’s world that a man possesses honor.  My father did.  Christ, am I so proud of him.  He was not perfect by any means but his spirit shone through regardless of the lens held up to him.  That’s beautiful to me.  That’s something to aspire to, something to achieve in my own way so that at the moment of my own death when asked, “Did you love and were you loved?”  I can answer with a contented and resounding “Yes.”

Dad-entry

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A rewound car crash on loop.

I’m waist deep in water.  Wall after wall of water relentlessly crashes down on me.  How I’m maintaining my foothold escapes me, I have just enough oxygen to breathe before the next wall of water slams into me, pushing me into an awkward dance for balance.  Where am I and how did I get here??  Where’s my dad?  I look to the shoreline and towering abandoned towers crumble to the ground in a lazy and sickly fashion.  My chest is tight.  The taste of salt fills my mouth.  Nausea.  At this moment I want to curl up into a ball and lay silently in a dry, dark corner.  I don’t know where to go or what to say.  I am surprised I am still writing something coherent.  My dad prepares for liberation across the hallway and I’m a fucking wreck all over again.  I’m tired of it.

Am I feeling this because it is the typical course of grief?  Is it because I can subconsciously or intuitively sense he is on the precipice now?  Or because I am leaving on Sunday and the disconnect will feel even greater?  The lights are on in the lobby here and I want them shut off.  The tv is on and I want it shut off.  My family is talking and I want them to stop.  I want the world to stop so I can yell so loud that it forces time to respectfully commence a backpedal.  I want to play my music so loud that it drowns out my thoughts and outweighs my feelings.  Auditory overpower.  Fuck cancer and fuck everything on this earth that causes it.

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