This last Wednesday was the first anniversary of my Dad passing away. I was blessed to be at home for the last two weeks of his life, helping to look after Dad and just sitting with him. I might not have used the word blessed as I dropped everything and made quick plans to return to Britain following a sudden turn for the worse with Dad’s health. I was really unsure what I was returning to, especially on an emotional level. However, I was at Dad’s bedside when he breathed his last. I won’t forget that moment. The time at home had been two weeks suffused with love.
I stayed on in the UK for another four weeks after that. In part to help my mother with the transition, but truth be told it was also to help myself start the grieving process for having just lost my father. Sitting chatting with mum, helping her around her flat, taking long walks around the city where I grew up and in many ways still consider as “home” was an important and nourishing time. If I had had to leave and fly home soon after Dad’s death, with the benefit of hindsight I don’t know how I would have managed it?
Dad and my relationship had not always been an easy, but the current of love I believe ran underneath it, or at the very least the wish to express more closely our love came from us both. I have much to thank my father for, something that I have understood more as the years have gone by. I know that I have struggled with some emotional aspects of my life because of those times when he was not present for me in my life. I have had wishes in my life for his being there, listening, talking, discussing. As I have grown older I have seen in Dad his own struggles, and raising someone who differed in his outlook on life was probably not the best place to have to live with those struggles. I’d like to think that through our differences and misunderstandings, love, respect and gratitude for being in each other’s lives was supreme.
This last year has been a reflection on and learning about grief. Not long after Dad passed away a friend here on Maui was killed while out cycling, knocked off his bicycle by a careless young driver. At Henry’s funeral one of the facilitators that morning said something like, “we are grief illiterate here in the West.” I won’t speak to the absolute truth of those words, but his words certainly rang true for me. What experience did I have of grief? Loosing pets as a kid. There was a period of upset, but my young life moved onto the next stage. Relatives had died, but no one as close to me as my father. This year has been learning about the waves of grief. That I don’t “get over it”, but with time learn to integrate it. That there is nothing wrong with me in how I am feeling in any given moment. That this is my grief, and there is no need to question or make excuses for it. A good friend texted me just after Dad has passed with a message which I have come to understand more deeply with the passage of time,
grief is pure love with no place to go
I feel that I have started to see mortality more clearly around me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming any profound change in how I show up in the world, but I am noticing some internal change in how I experience the world. Again, like learning to live with the waves of grief, I have found this to be about integration. It’s a learning and integrating experience, a process.
Even in his passing, Dad is giving me lessons to learn from.
I love you Dad and miss you. Thank you.