Friday, March 29, 2019

March 29

My father died on the 29th of March, 1999, twenty years ago, and my mother reminded me of this fact by text. "It was the saddest day of my life," she said. "The others were on the whole happy."

I read yesterday about a woman with a strange genetic mutation who feels no pain, nor no anxiety. Her days, one supposes, are all the same, all happy. 

Our human ability to feel things, including empathy, is paradoxically what makes us fragile and what makes us strong. 

I know that my mother gave my father smoked haddock with a poached egg as his last meal. I know that she was with him in the ambulance, holding his hand, when he died. I know that when we were celebrating his 85th birthday just a few weeks before he died (and when he was fit and bright and dynamic) the lights went out at 9 o'clock and he made us light candles all around the house. The party had to go on. But it was a sign. 

And this evening, looking towards the Berkshire Downs, by Swyncombe Church, the sunset was so beautiful that I know he had a had in it. Another sign. A sign to not fear the future, or death. That death should be just another stage of life. A reminder to pay attention to all the beauty that surrounds us every day. 

I think of him less often that I used to. But he is always there, just around the corner, like a color or a light, a little bit of him, twinkling just out of reach. 



Katherine C. James said...

Read this when you posted it. It has stayed on my mind. Even mentioned it to my dinner companions last night. You and I share the phenomenon of an older dad, and all that comes with that. The twentieth anniversary of my dad's death will be 6 December 2020. He was 89 (actually, he would have been 89 three days after he died, on 9 December, the day of his funeral). I felt lucky to have him as long as I did. What your mom wrote moves me. With deep love comes deep sadness. I love that she can say, "The others were on the whole happy." I still think of my dad often. The way I think of him has shifted. We were close and resolved when he died. I didn't need to grieve him so much as find a way to continue to connect with him. I now find him in me, still himself, whenever I need him. (We converse, and sometimes he disagrees with me, so I know it is him, weighing in.) My dad was also bright and present until he died. You and I share that good fortune. He was active and engaged every day, and found joy in the work and people he loved. He inspires me, who is not presently in that place, to find my own joy again. He did remind me, as you do, to pay attention to the beauty that surrounds us every day. Thank you for the reminder. xo.

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