I know it's not, intellectually I know this. But sometimes all the self-work, the soul-digging, the reading, the reflecting....still leaves me feeling...empty.
I realized, after staying at my parents house on the July 1st holiday (my mom's house, I keep forgetting) that grief is exhausting.
I didn't run at all this week. I put everything into my work, packed 5 days into 4, or so it felt, for the Canada Day holiday, and came home, after wicked traffic, every night, too tired to move, let alone lace up my shoes and blast out for a bit. The traffic served its own purpose, though, as I look on it now, calmly; it did give me that time to reflect, that can be something you run from at times like these.
My aunt always said you didn't know what people were capable of; my friend A. turned this statement around to you don't know what you are capable of; it's true--I would have never thought myself capable of severing the close relationship I had with my aunt over a moment of protectiveness toward my family of origin. I didn't think I was capable of writing, let alone delivering, my father's eulogy. But you grow, you evolve, you pray, and as the English say, you 'get on with it'.
Weekend found me wallowing a bit. My mom's house has that affect on me now.
His absence is everywhere. I check his email for him. I help my mom with the barbecue, I open the garage, I observe the beautiful summer weather as we sit in the backyard, writing out thank-you cards together to send to those who were kind enough to send flowers to my father's service, donations, their presence. Their thoughts, their prayers.
Then night falls and I do feel the same anxiety as my mother. I sleep in the den, downstairs, and as always when I sleep somewhere unfamiliar, I hear all noises, I seem to only half-sleep.
I dream of my father, not a peaceful dream. We are all in a car, driving to his service, with him, he is stoically unmoving, but alive, I observe. He is insisting we have his service at 11 am (coincidentally we did have it at 11am). We are driving in the rain (the day of his memorial was sunny and bright) past an unfamiliar or unremembered park, in someone else's car.
I want to believe in spirit, the afterlife, the unseen, the ultimate in the unknown, the crossing of the bridge, that fateful boat on unknowable waters, taking us on our final journey. But I have fits of doubt, of terror. Now I have the butterflies in my stomach. I breathe deeply, as I jolt awake from the latest dream, pulling myself back to this world, panting a bit with anxiety, the grief a weight, on my upper chest, robbing me of air and causing me to breathe shallowly, tentatively.
Finally, it's 4am (the witching hour). Birds are already singing in the suburbs. In my sleep-wake I lie there, not wanting to move and the phrase, unbidden "the night is darkest before the dawn" pops into my head. It certainly feels that way. I have moments of memories. Conversations, especially those in that remote Oshawa hospital, after I first learned that these weeks, spring of 2011, would be the last I would have with my father. That I wouldn't have the time to have more of my adult life with him, share with him my growth, his growth, write new stories, trace the new memories. Have him see me get married. I know he was proud of me; his friends tell me that. I wanted unlimited chances to continue to stoke that pride.
I email back and forth with a close friend of my father's, B., who sees the world, it seems to me, the way I hope to one day--calmly, peacefully, and filtered with spirit, but without the anxiety that accompanies it for me. He wrote me these lines after I shared with him that I felt I had not always made the right decisions in my relationship with my Dad;
We all “do the best we can” in our relationships with loved ones; but, when they pass away, there seems to be a reflex which results in a critical self-examination of ‘what we could have said’ or ‘what we could have done differently’. I’ve felt that way myself but I’ve learned to recognize that those Above, under God’s umbrella, remember what it’s like to be human; but, have been granted the wisdom to not judge us; but, savour the love, acceptance,values and importance we had in their lives.
Those in Heaven wish only the best for us, indirectly, they try to encourage us to explore and enjoy all the world offers us, unhampered by any regrets.
When I read these words on my lunch hour at work, the day before the Canada Day holiday, I have to close my office door quietly so I can softly have a cry by myself and honour these sentences. I cried because I want this to be true, I need to believe it to be true, and somewhere inside myself, I continue to work on the banishment of any and all doubts that it is not the case.
I get up, turn on the light, turn to a book. It's a spiritual book, one that I had read before I was ready. Now I read it again, and I notice things I didn't catch before.
I take a pill to relax. It's that bad in this four-in-the-morning wake-up time.
After an hour, the light does begin to show itself. I feel ready to lie back down, turn off the light, and put my head back on the pillow.
One more memory, again, unbidden, sidles into my consciousness.
"I'll miss you," he says, his sad eyes filling with tears.
"I"ll miss you, too." I say. I manage to get the words out before tears choke me mute.
My head is on the pillow, the tears slide down my face sideways, and I close my eyes, and drift back to sleep.