For the past nine days, ever since my dad died, I’ve been thinking about him and about life and death in general pretty much nonstop. When Lex was in kindergarten and went through a time where he couldn’t sleep at night because the idea of dying was upsetting him too much, I told him that before he was born his whole world was inside of me. He could hear my voice, in an underwater, warped way, and he maybe knew that he wasn’t alone, that there was something else keeping him company. And, I told him, it would have been impossible for him to imagine the world that he was about to be born into. Light, colors, air, trees, smells, cars, houses, seashells, rockets, food, even his mother – everything he could think of – all of it was so close to him all the time but he had no way to know. I told him that we have no idea what happens after we die, but that if we have the sense that there’s more out there, then I think it’s because there is. That there’s something holding us that we can’t see or imagine, but we can still feel is there. It seemed to help him. I know it helped me.
When my step-mom and I got to the hospital after my dad died, we went into his room and sat with him for awhile. I was hoping to feel him there still, but I didn’t. I looked up toward the ceiling above his hospital bed anyway, just in case he was there watching like people who’ve had near death experiences describe.
His voice is still so clear in my head. The way he said Hello when he picked up the telephone, how he said, awwww coool, when he really liked something, him singing Ghost Riders In the Sky to me and my brother when we were little. How he said my name.
Sometimes I think about those fish that live their whole lives at the deepest parts of the ocean. They’re on the same planet we are, but don’t have a concept of life outside the water, or even life with light. It’s so weird that things like that give me hope that my dad is still around somewhere.
Last night I was driving over to Scuba’s house, so we could go out for dinner, just us, since the kids were away for the night, I stopped at a light and saw that there was a spiderweb between the side-view mirror on the driver’s side and the door of the car. And, working quickly to fix all the broken parts of it, was a pretty good sized little orangey brown spider. Oh, bummer, dude, I said to him when the light turned green. He hung in there for the whole drive, even though at one point he was trailing straight back from the mirror on eighteen inches of silk at 40 mph. About three quarters of the way there, he finally crawled into the space between the mirror and its cover, and if spiders feel fear, I’m sure he was just terrified. And here it was again: The spider had no idea what the hell was happening to him, but I knew the whole story because I was watching it happen. It’s helping me feel a tiny bit better, looking at things this way. It doesn’t fix that I won’t ever get to see my dad again, and that if I live to see eighty years old I’ll end up living half my life without him, but it helps me believe that he’s still around, tucked someplace, maybe even on this planet, where he’s there but no one can see him.
Ever since the end of the summer before last, the air conditioning in my van has only worked sporadically. Just when I’m ready to pay whatever it costs to get it fixed, it starts working again, but only for one car ride, and then the next time I start the car, I get nothing. Every time I’ve driven my car since my dad died, the AC has worked, beautifully. And I know it may sound silly and far-fetched, but I think he fixed it for me. That would be just like him.
[Edited 8.24.11 to add: My comment moderation/notification was messed up ALL summer (my fault), but I didn’t realize it until now. Huge apologies to the 20 or so people who left such kind and helpful comments. I’m so sorry I am only just now seeing and publishing them. Thanks so much for your help. Two months later it’s honestly not any easier, but it’s different, less frantic I guess, since I’m not feeling as much of that panic that comes with total disbelief. I don’t know that I’m making sense, here. I don’t know what to say, so I’ll just say thank you again for taking the time to reach out. My dad read my blog and would have been (or maybe he is) so touched.]
I’m so sorry for your loss.
(I think about my mom and dad in a similar way and it helps)
Hi. I just found your blog today, but I read this post and couldn’t not comment. I’ve been trying to put into words a lot lately how I would describe my spirituality (primarily for my infant daughter’s sake, but that’s a whole different story), and your first paragraph about having a sense of something more being out there after we die is pretty much exactly what I’ve been trying to say. Thank you – it’s like a tiny light bulb went on when I read that. And I am so very, very sorry for the loss of your father. My thoughts are with you and your family.
This is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for putting it all into words and sharing.
Your dad is there. With you. I am so certain about that. He’ll appear in ways that will make you think that your mind is just manufacturing things to make you feel close to him. A week after my dad died, I sat down to play Facebook scrabble with a friend. I clicked on my game and in the letter tray was the word “viola”. My dad was a professional violist for more than fifty years. Silly? Maybe. But to me, not just a coincidence.
As exquisitely painful as the first few weeks after his death were, I wanted to hang on to the sense that he had just left the room. When I was staying with my mom the week after his funeral, I went into his “man” room (my old room, repurposed). There was his easy chair, with his lumbar pillow. The book he was reading, with a bookmark in it. His viola. A music stand with sheet music. His calendar, with stuff written in through June. Cards from friends, propped up on his desk. It took my breath away, the feeling that he was just out running errands and would be back soon – not that he was gone forever. When I went back into that room a few weeks ago, it did feel like he was gone forever. I wished I could get that feeling again, because now it feels like all I can do is adjust to him being gone.
I did not make it down to him in time when he was dying. He was in hospice, but the consensus was that he had several more weeks than he ultimately had. (Long story short – chemo for liposarcomas nearly killed him; he had some good months after he recovered, but ultimately it took such a toll on his overall health that he died of systemic organ failure, not cancer, though it had returned.) Part of it was denial that my dad could ever die, part was just being busy with life. If he had held on for two more days, I would have been there with him. I felt such anguish at the thought that he might have wanted to see me one last time, that he might have felt sadness about that in his last hours. I “talked” to him after he was gone and told him many times how much I loved him and how sorry I was not to have held his hand one last time. A few days later I was puttering around in the kitchen, feeling so sad, and I heard his voice as if he were standing next to me. “It’s okay, darlin’ girl”, he said. And I have felt better, and forgiven, ever since. I’m so sure his spirit is still with me. And your dad’s is with you.
xox — Kayla
You know, I just found out that it’s really hard to swallow a bite of apple with a lump in your throat. I feel like my mom and dad are around and right after Daddy died, there were many times when I knew he was there and was helping me find stuff, etc. He sent me a rainbow one day. It’s a long story but I believe it was his first attempt at making one. He also helped me find a bread recipe that he loved that had been lost for years…..
I still talk to Tooty all the time, and I hear Poppa’s voice in my head, too. Usually it’s him talking about Cait, how’s she’s Cool as a hog on ice. I miss them. I need to get copies of all those photos so I can frame some. xo
I found you via Chookooloonks.
This is a beautiful piece of writing. I love how you reframe the mystery of death as an unknown piece within the bigger picture of life itself.
tearing up now, but chuckling about that air conditioning. Isn’t it just like a father to fix what you were uncomfortably dealing with just because he wants some part of your life a little better? You’ve expressed beautifully how it feels to lose someone amazing but know that he/she is still somewhere with you. God, I’m thinking of my Poppy now and wondering all about his “new life.”
I came here from the link on Karen’s blog (Chookooloonks) and I couldn’t leave without saying that this is just beautiful. Beautiful writing and a beautiful way to look at life and death. This will stay with me a long, long time. Thank you.
(So you know: I found your blog via a tweet from @Chookooloonks.) Your description of death being like birth is absolutely beautiful. After witnessing my grandpa’s death in hospice care 3 months ago, I talked about how the moment of his death was like a miracle, similar to birth. And after Gramps died, I didn’t feel his spirit in the room, like you said too. (Since then, there have been times when I have felt my grandpa’s spirit.) For several weeks, Gramps was on my mind constantly–with my first waking thought, all through the day and in my dreams. I had no motivation to call people, or to do laundry or to cook for my family, much less decide WHAT to cook. One morning I woke up and felt more like myself. I still think of Gramps all the time, and I still ache with missing him, just not as intensely as those first weeks. Sending you love and peace and healing for your grief.
This is possibly one of the most soothing things I’ve ever read about processing the loss of a loved one. Thank you.
Excuse me while I cry into my Friday night, survived-the-week glass of wine. What a touching post.
“Tucked someplace, maybe even on this planet.” I love that. And needed it. Thanks so much for sharing with us.
I’m sorry for your loss Jenijen. My dad died right after I turned 21, and I hit the “half way without him” mark a couple years ago. My faith leads me to believe in heaven, and I truly believe that my dad will have walked my life with me in one way or another. I wish I felt it more than I do, though, honestly. I like your logic about that which exists beyond our knowledge. Enjoy your AC 🙂
Thanks for shaing your thoughts during this hard time. You have a beautiful perspective on the world, one which I’m sure your dad had a large hand in shaping.
Thanks. This is beautiful.
Thanks for your kind words, Marilyn 🙂
Jen, I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. This is a beautiful post.
I went through a very brief period, after my dad died in December of 2009, of feeling like he was somewhere near but on the outside of everything. I remember walking my dog the day he died and thinking that the worst thing was if he was out there, missing US the way we were already missing HIM. Please don’t miss us too much, I said to the air around me, and I immediately felt better. That whole first day I felt light as a feather, strung together with incredibly fine webs of light, like my dad was cushioning the blow for me somehow, like everything would be fine.
Of course the pain came in later, and still does sometimes, but now I think my dad’s still in me, because I’m so much like him. When I walked across the stage to receive my master’s degree this May, they said my name wrong (actually omitting his name, my second last name)and from nowhere, to mitigate my disappointment, I heard myself saying “it’s going to be correct on the diploma, and that’s what counts”. 100% dad-delivered wisdom, right in my own brain!
So yeah, I think we carry people around in lots of ways. I like to think that your dad is making sure the A/C works for you, when there’s so much else I’m sure he wishes he could still help with.
That was beautiful and does make losing a loved one easier. My brother has been gone 10 years now & all I can see of him is his face laughing; we used to laugh so much. A co-worker committed suicide 7 months ago and I can still feel him so closely – laughing, like we always did. I’d like to use your thoughts & believe that our lovies are still right here with us – in spirit. 🙂
I think you have expressed this so beautifully. There is so much that we don’t know yet, but might know in ten years time because of our experience.
Maybe this is with the persons who passed away the same. We don’t know, but they do.
Thank you for reminding me!
Hi Jacqueline – thanks for your comment. I think the older I get and the more I learn the more I know I don’t know much. 🙂