I was on the phone recently with my brother. He likes to call late in the evenings because of the time difference. I was at my desk in the dark with only a simple lamp over my shoulder. I was holding up my phone and watching the sunlight streaming in from the window behind him. We had been laughing a lot but then he got a bit quiet.
“Did dad come to visit you?”
Our father passed away in 2014 but it doesn’t mean that I’m over it. I often dream of him and the dreams aren’t comforting. He’s always at work, helping customers and filling orders. I’m the only voice of reason in the black and white visions.
“Dad, you know that you aren’t here anymore right?” I tell him urgently but he laughs and hands me more work to do.
“Don’t say things like that, now come on we have to finish this job.”
I worked with him everyday because he told me he getting too old to learn the new computer programs that the job demanded. That could have been the reason. It could have also have been that he didn’t want to work anymore. Or maybe he was lonely.
I didn’t mind. It was easy work and paid well. I never thought that one Monday I would come back and it would be all gone. He had regular customers that would often visit but for some reason none of them showed up after his passing. I couldn’t share the news. One of them thought we had lost the store because of money issues.
While I don’t know why I still see my dad hard at work in his store, I understand that none of it is real. It doesn’t made coping with his death any easier though. So instead I’ve found ways to make myself feel more at ease.
I’ve been reading a lot more non fiction books lately and many of them deal with death. Death is such a finality that it’s impossible to imagine. I won’t get into specifics about it but everyone has their own idea of what happens after we die. For me, the process of grieving and reading how others do it too has been therapeutic. I frequent websites like The Order of the Good Death and devoured books like From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. By educating myself on how others deal with the finality of death, I’ve been able to find more peace with it.
What would have he had wanted for me?
Talking about it
My brother and I laugh a lot about our memories of our dad. When we were young we had a rough time with him but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh about it now. And we did have good memories with him too. Recalling our history together not only strengthens our bond as siblings, it takes us back to when we were young. I can say my brother and I are closer now than ever before. And it feels good to know he has my back. We weren’t close when we were younger but age has changed both of us for the better.
Keeping his memory alive
I often think about my dad’s funeral. I know he would have wanted us to laugh at it instead of cry. Towards the end of his life he only wanted to laugh and be happy. I remember that everyday, especially on the days where I’m unhappy with something. The wonderful think about life is that emotions can be swayed. If I’m feeling particularly down, I recall a special memory of my dad. My favorite one was he caught me singing in my bedroom one day. “I don’t hear you sing that often.” He told me before he left. The surprise in his voice said it all. What he didn’t know was that I used to sing all the time. I was so good at hiding it that he didn’t realize. Now I try to hide less and it feels good.
Getting down and dirty
My dad was human, and so of course he made mistakes. To this day we still wonder why he did the things he did. It’s helpful to remember that people make mistakes. Impulsive acts might seem good in the moment. And to my dad, his impulsive behavior made him do a lot of stupid things. Doesn’t make him a terrible person and it doesn’t make me hate him. I know he was in a lot of pain and that he was unhappy with his life. That doesn’t make him a villian. By talking to my family about how why he might have acted out we can sort out our own emotions and come to terms with them.
I know that the process of grieving can be different for everyone. What’s important is to approach it with an open mind and a full heart. Death will never be easy. It helps to know that there are other people who are also going through the motions of dealing with the death of a loved one. It’s part of the human experience and it’s a part of life.