It comes in waves… my grief… my pain… my tears. It drifts further away when people are around and storms the shore of my life around mid morning and late at night. The television drowns the memories at night, but simply fills me with a dull emptiness during the day. My temptation is to silence the subtle gnawing at my soul, but I know that will only irritate and inflame the wound of grief, so I force myself to sit in it… and and sit through it.
Thank you for sitting with me.
Yesterday was photo day. An obvious place that anyone who has ever lost someone has found themselves. With the world of computers and home movies, this normally involves sitting in front of a screen and clicking a button or a mouse. However, the photos I sat with yesterday were ascertained long before you needed a plug to view a memory. Black and white… faded… ripped and worn… these were pictures of a different day and age. A day that I wish I knew better.
Pictures of people and homes and memories that were foreign to me. How I wish I could ask the one who recognized this time. “Who is this person? Where are you here? Describe this moment to me.” But I can’t… because he is gone. I look at the boxes of memories that sit before me and realize that I missed that opportunity… that moment will never be.
So, I piece together the photos… the faces… the dates.
I find that the pictures bring more questions than answers. I want to know about a family that I have only heard about. But, it’s not the story I want to hear… but the perspective of the one who took them.
As I sit in this season, fog lifts from so much of my life. Those things that we deem important… those things that fill us with rage or passion… those things that steal our joy and peace… they are someone else’s battle. They are someone else’s story. They are someone else’s photographs.
And as we fight for another’s photos, our own photographs and memories become faded and ripped and worn.
I need to sit in the moment more and share my stories with those I love. To dust off the memories and pass them down to my children. To share… to love… to not share someone else’s story, but to share mine… because it is “ours”.
My dad did that in his own way. As decades past he was one of the first to get a camcorder… and he loved to use it. My dad’s only problem is that he wasn’t very good at using it. He would zoom in too close and everything would get blurry. He would shake the camera as he moved. He would point the camera at a tree and simply look at it for 3-4 minutes. Without sound, his videos would be so boring. (And honestly… with sound, some of them are pretty boring too.) But, what those videos have for me today is something that no dusty picture in a box is ever going to give me.
He talks about trees and cows across the street. He talks about my mom as he zooms in too close to her face. He talks about the house that he built as he pans back and forth… and back and forth… and back again. He talks about the grass that was cut the day before and the neighbors who haven’t cut their grass for a week. He talks about cars that drive too fast down the street as he zooms in close to get their license plate. He talks about the snow on the ground and the sun in the sky and the pool in the backyard and the bird on the porch and anything else that filled the lens. But, for me I don’t really care what he is saying… I just love to hear his voice.
It’s funny because often that which we take for granted is the one thing that we will miss the most. My dad drove me crazy telling me the same story over and over again. In one visit, he would tell me the same thing three different times. I would complain to my wife about it… but now I’d trade anything for a fourth time of hearing that same story again.
I want to hear him drone on about politics.
I want to hear him talk about how hot it is in Arizona.
I want to hear him talk about Lake Erie perch.
I want to hear him talk about how much he loved my mom.
I want to hear him say how proud he is of me.
I want to hear…
It’s funny. I know that I will never physically hear him say those words again, but all I have to do is close my eyes and I can hear them ringing in my ears. Because, he said them so much that they are no longer just memories, but they have etched themselves inside of my soul and have become part of who I am.
I long to be like that. To not speak words that stop at ears, but that etch themselves in another’s soul.
Will I do that for everyone? No. But, if just one… it’s worth it. If just my kids… it’s worth it. If just my wife… it’s worth it.
This is just one of many things that my dad has left with me. The desire to have a voice that leaves a mark long after I’m gone.
I have had a vision since the day the medical examiner called me on the phone. It fills my mind every time I close my eyes. It is one that I didn’t create, but came out of nowhere when I heard of my dad’s last ride. It was simple and true and no one can ever take it away from me. The minute I closed my eyes I saw my dad with my mom. They were so happy. His smile was so bright. He was looking down on me with a glint that I hadn’t seen in a long time. And then I heard his voice.
“Don’t worry about me. You’ve got work to do. Now make me proud boy. Make me proud. We will be reunited again, but right now you have work to do.”
I wanted to tell him, “NO! I AM GOING TO BE MAD AND ANGRY AND SAD AND BROKEN AND LOST AND QUESTION GOD AND RUN!” But, I couldn’t.
I couldn’t resist his voice.
I knew that he was sent to reaffirm what I already knew… what I tell everyone else at every funeral I have ever been to. He was preaching to me. He was on the pulpit and I was in the pew. His voice was true and I knew that I could never escape truth. I simply closed my eyes and told him…
“I never cry… but I will cry for you. I will mourn you. I will be sad and I will miss you deeply. But… I will make you proud and I will use my voice to honor you.”
After that… I cried.
I still cry. It’s hard. You are good one minute and then it just sneaks up on you. It’s not like a tidal wave for me… it is more like the tide coming in. I feel my emotional waters getting deeper. I feel a shift taking place. I feel a lump in my throat. I feel a sadness in my heart. And then I reach a place where I feel like the water is about to go over my head and then there is a shift. The water changes direction. It starts moving away from my shore. And… I can breathe again. I’m sure grief is different for everyone… but that’s what it is like for me.
So, I sit in the tide pool waiting for the next wave. I know that I won’t drown. I know that it won’t pull me out into dangerous waters. I know that it is something that I must sit through. This is my “Sitting Shiva”. This is our “Sitting Shiva”. Again, thank you so much for sitting with me.
Through my ranting and my tears and my broken heart… it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. The support and love has been incredible and I want you to know that I wouldn’t be anybody without a “somebody” in my life called “dad”.
He never gave up on my… when everyone else did. May that same spirit be upon you… me… us. Let us never forget the faded memories that we’ve made or the voice that we leave on this earth. Let us never be ashamed to sit and wait… to taste tears… to remember… to open our ears… and listen for that voice.