Wednesday, February 21, 2007
My Dad passed away one year ago today. I've been thinking over the past week about my life before the 5 days when he got sick, went to the hospital, and didn't come home. It's like watching a movie of a woman (nah--a girl) who had a lot to learn, who was blissfully unaware of a whole side of life that so many people experience every day, who thought she pretty much had the world by its short-and-curlies.
I rewind my life up until 370 days ago in my head and I recognize the girl in the playback, but I see her in a kind of out-of-body, detached way. I know her, I am her, but I'm watching from a distance so I can't make out all of her features; or perhaps she is a bit out of focus on the film itself, which is what lends her image the quality of an apparition. She gets more in focus as Day 370 turns into Day 367 and then, inexorably, into Day 365, but she's still not picture perfect. She still has a lot to learn, a lot more mental and physical clarity to earn, as sharp as the heartbreak makes her seem through the haze.
I look at her the way I look at all the cars speeding by on the other side of the beltway, not knowing that just three miles ahead of them there is the tail end of a 50-mile backup. There they go, poor suckers, blithely motoring forward, thoughts of getting home, having dinner, seeing kids and wives and husbands, what they will do for the weekend. All the pedestrian concerns that cumulatively make our lives anything but. There they go, poor schmucks, no clue what awaits them around the bend. Wish I could tell them how things are not going to go the way they always do, that dinners will be missed, children will not be kissed goodnight, that life will not go as planned tonight. But there are no means of communication between my side and theirs. Today's events will have to play out the way they must, and those people in those cars in those lives will have to figure out how to navigate their own roads.
On my own road, 365 days later, I can finally see myself in my mind's eye, from that day forward, slowly-slowly lifting out of the haze of disbelief, denial and desolation. Slowly-slowly finding reasons to go on living in spirit as well as in flesh. Slowly-slowly giving myself permission to laugh, to feel joy, to let the convulsions of unsupportable grief subside into a dull ache, and then finally into a small hole in your heart that never heals but that allows you--or perhaps compels you--to begin feeling other people's joy and pain again.
If I could go back 365 days and change the world, I surely would. I'd be richer by virtue of having my kooky, nutty, wonderful, devoted father (and Bambina's grandfather) on the earth. I miss him in ways large and small, picayune and profound. But I'd also be poorer for missing the past year's long, slow journey toward clarity and focus of purpose. I know who I am, finally. I know that I can live through anything, finally. I know that letting down my guard to accept support from people who love me is not an admission of weakness, finally. I know that I have the power and the ability--and the responsibility--to be for the Bambina what my father was for me, finally. And I now know that all of the things my father hoped for me and all his kids--success, wisdom, faith, perseverance and conspicuous courage--I have the strength to achieve, finally.
I miss him every day, and remember him with this:
There are stars
Whose radiance is visible on earth
Though they have long been in existence.
There are people
Whose brilliance continues to light the world
Though they are no longer among the living.
These lights are particularly bright
When the night is dark.
They light the way
For us all.