I am about to lose Papa. True, it happened a long time ago, but as I review my Letters To My Papa book for a new project (more on that another time), I witness the loss of my father’s life all over again.
No matter whether it was my first edit of the original letters, or the second draft, or final draft, or proofreading, or re-reading, or editing for a new project, I always meet Resistance when I’m about to lose him again. Naturally. Who would want to lose her dear old dad once, much less repeatedly? Having lost him a good half dozen times now, I can say with certainty it never gets easier. I get further away from the original event on the space-time continuum, but my letters teleport my heart back to Jefferson hospital in 2013. Back to the place and time that changed my life forever.
We are creeping closer to the tenth anniversary of his passing. (February 8) This milestone stirs up a host of complicated feelings in me.
I am in disbelief that so much time has come and gone. I look around at the world today and sigh at how different a place it seems from merely ten years ago. And I feel thankful he hasn’t had to watch us further implode. On the flip side, I feel deep sadness that I cannot share my little corner of the world with him, because I really love what I’ve built over the last ten trips around the sun. I am mad that all we had is all we will ever have–no more moments, no new memories. I feel guilty that the past decade has been the best one of my life. I feel confused about how that could be so if my dad weren’t a part of it. I feel scared of leaving my own daughter behind someday, and wonder with an ache in my heart whether the best years of her life will be with or without me. I feel proud of my daughter–his namesake. And I feel proud of how she misses a man she never met, because it means I’m keeping his memory alive as I promised him I would.
Life Goes On
Life goes on. It’s a painful truth. (I’m practically offended by it when I say it myself.) But no matter how painful, the truth of it cannot be denied. We suffer tremendous loss, and we go on. We grieve until it feels like our hearts will physically give out, and we go on. We wish the world would stop turning, for just a moment, to hold space for our loss, yet it goes on. And on we go with it.
I struggle to accept this, and yet, what choice do I have? Mike Dooley once said, “If summer resisted fall, it wouldn’t really be summer or fall.” It’s true. It would just become a giant ball of Resistance, a denial of reality. Though I admit there are days denial feels like a more comfortable place to live, I know acceptance is healthier. Is it harder? Yes, but healthy does not come easily. I think what Papa would want most for his daughter is for her to be healthy, even when it’s hard as hell.
And so, I will go on. I will turn the pages and lose him again because that is what is true and real and honest. I will conquer Resistance to face this loss once more. I see the bigger picture, and I choose to walk the treacherous steps that lead my grief toward a greater purpose. (Again, more on that another time.)