Late last night sometime during the crazy packing up for the girls to go to Disneyland with their Girl Scout troop, the moment of the one year anniversary of your death slipped by without me noticing.
I’m sure you’d much rather have me get the girls ready for their trip than sit and cry from missing you, but still, I can’t help but feel bad that I didn’t stop and do something. What? I don’t even know.
I’ve been thinking about death constantly this past year, something that I’ve sidestepped all my life. I think I have finally settled on some kind of idea about it that I can sort of wrap my brain around, about what might happen. You wouldn’t think I’m a practical person, but one thing I do is look at how things around me work in order to get an idea of how things I don’t understand might work. I tend to look to nature for clues.
I’ve seen people who have had their personality altered by medication, by addiction, by brain diseases, by hormone imbalances, by old age. There’s a man I know who right now is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. He isn’t who he was because his brain isn’t like it was. So that’s one piece of information I’m going on. Another, a more hopeful one, is a law of physics that I might be misinterpreting (and I wish that you could help me understand*). It’s the law of conservation of energy. My understanding of it is that energy (like, for example, the electricity that makes our brains work) cannot be created or destroyed. Other things I’ve folded into my thinking are: the water cycle; the flower cycle; butterflies; my very strong opinion that creatures like the chambered nautilus, which has (I think) been in existence longer than humans have been, have no idea that humans exist, even though people have their shells sitting out on display around their houses.
I wish that I believed that when I die I’ll see you again and we will each be ourselves and we will sit on the floor and talk and drink beer and have a big cutting board with those buttery crackers and salami and the best cheese, a football game we’re not really watching on TV in the background. But that doesn’t fit for me. All around me I see things on a loop. Seed, plant, flower, seed, plant, flower. I don’t think we build up all this momentum to stop and be suspended for eternity. I think that there’s something in us, call it energy or a spark or a soul, that leaves our bodies when we die. I don’t think it’s necessarily a separate, contained thing. I don’t think it’s us distilled at our very best. I think it’s an ingredient in the universe, and I think it gets mixed back in to make more things. I also think that I don’t have the ability to even begin to imagine what all that means, just like the goldfish in my living room would never guess that there is an entire industry employing lots and lots of people all around the world to make the food I give them each morning.
I’d like to think that we get to gather experience and information as we travel on whatever cycle or path we’re on. I’d like to think that when I die, I’ll bring the vital parts of this life with me and that when my energy meets your energy, something amazing will happen. I don’t think that’s impossible, I just hope it’s true.
I cannot express how very much I miss you. I think about you when I listen to the radio and when I look at my kids. I think about you when I’m cooking and when it’s raining. I didn’t realize how many memories I have of you and how connected you are to so many everyday things in my life until I started living those days without you and was reminded of you all day long.
I am so lucky to be your daughter. So lucky. The kids and I talk about you often, and even though I misremember practically every story I ever tell, I tell them stories about you. And maybe that’s what heaven is, just being remembered and loved. I wish we’d had more time together, and I wish that you’d had more time to do the things you wanted to. You know how you always stayed up late so that you could stay in the conversation or card game or whatever action was happening? That’s really bothering me, that you had to miss so much of the end of your life when it was never in your nature to quietly go to bed early while everyone was still having fun.
I love you. I miss you. It’s really hard to cry this much with reading glasses on, so I’m going to go make the boys clean their room or something. But I’ll be thinking about you. I always am. xo
*My dad? Ph.D. physicist.
Great letter, Jen! How did it feel when you wrote it? Did it feel like your dad was standing in front of you? Did it feel like he was on the other end of the phone, listening to bits of your life and helping you sort out things? Did you hear his laugh? See his smile? Did you FEEL his love as you wrote this? I am proud of you for taking this step – it shows you are truly ready to continue on with your grieving process and taking the next steps to find your own inner peace. No guilt, no only your love shining through for a very special man in your life. And THAT is the way it should be!!!
Thanks. I see his smile and hear his laugh all the time. He had the best laugh. xo
Jen – I love your thoughts on energy and what happens after death. (That’s kind of weird to say, but I *totally* get being consumed with it as it’s something we don’t understand.) Thanks for sharing. I think it’s helpful to know others struggle to wrap our heads around these same ideas.