I didn’t cry much after you passed away.
In all honesty, I felt a flood of relief as we sat watching. The nurse leaned over your hospice bed, cold stethoscope pressed to your chest, not needing to be warmed first. Your breathing had been labored and rattly, then shallow.
Mom and I sat, sides touching on the couch, and when the nurse rose, draped her stethoscope back around her neck and shook her head slightly, her voice gentle and consoling, telling us what we already knew, mom laced her hand in mine, tucked her head to my chest and let out the tiniest muffled sob.
We were ready to let you go then because you were suffering. Because at that moment, we could only deal with the reality of your medications, your mind shrouded by disease, your constant pain and your longing for heaven. You slipped from us that night but you had been going for years.
We let go of the dying because we knew you had life ahead of you.
It was all very business like after that. The nurses left us. We called Jordan to come before they took your body away. The shell that you wasted away in during your final years of sickness. And we all behaved well in these stark hours when grief was new and fresh.
It’s odd really, that sometimes during the most difficult times of grief, a steely resolve sets in and you can do what needs to be done.
But then 2 years have passed, and it’s your birthday.
You would have been 60 today.
And the holidays have just passed again without you. Your absence is starker now. The distance of your illness removed and the memories of you as you once were more brilliant.
The relief that you are no longer suffering has faded and in its place, the loss of who once was, before all of that.
And then suddenly, we pass by the busy fish market, the glistening scales and crab shells bound by rubberbands and displayed on pure white ice and it all collapses. Because you would have loved this. And you are not here to enjoy it. And only those who remain feel that loss. The emptiness of experiences without the pleasure of your reaction to them.
And its true that when time passes, our memories solidify less into what they actually were, and more into how we wish to remember them. It is not the fading of memory like an old photograph yellowed with edges curled and worn but rather, the burst of a photographic flash, brilliant and blinding, the colors too garish.
The memories offend the senses because they are just too much to take in and instead of the grief settling low, it bubbles up anew at the oddest of times.
And for me, this year is the hardest.
Because we would have struggled to think of what to get you and ended up with new socks. Because we would’ve had a family dinner tonight with all your favorites.
Because you would’ve been a safe place for me when depression hit again this past month. You would’ve been both empathetic and objective. You would’ve had wisdom and encouragement, for those were two of your greatest gifts.
Because you would’ve been proud of me, of my writing, of my dreams. You would’ve bragged and written down my blog address for everyone who would stand still long enough and I would’ve been mortified.
Because your grandchildren would’ve made you cards and drawn you pictures and you would’ve reached for your glasses, while they climbed on your lap, and you would have looked each of them over and loved every moment.
Because mom is strong and brave like she has been her whole life but sometimes it is all too much and she’s a bit lost without you. Because although we try our best to be there for her, you were her partner in this life and it feels like you went too soon.
Because eventually you would annoy us all and we would sigh in frustration and never know how much we would miss your annoying habits when you were gone.
Because without you here this year, your absence is felt keenly.
Because we miss you. Because we love you.
Happy Birthday, Dad.