When someone is taken from you suddenly it changes everything, of course.
Here and then gone. Just like that. My mind reels, struggles to wrap itself around the word: gone.
There is an endless ticker tape running through my mind - gone, gone, gone - and it pulls my energy, my thoughts away from the present moment and back through time, as though I can rewind the clock by sheer force of will, zoom back six days to when a day was just a day and he existed somewhere in the world.
Sad is way too small a word to describe how it feels.
Future plans evaporate in the blink of an eye; time grinds to a standstill as each moment creeps by like an eternity.
We're busy; there are lots of arrangements to make, people to call, decisions to muddle through. I'm grateful to be in motion. It is the worst when I pause, pull into myself and remember: gone.
There are small periods of numbness, almost like forgetting. I think the body and mind can only handle so much, and the brain shifts into neutral, goes on auto-pilot.
There are also moments of intense gratitude, grace and even peace. Even as I fully absorb the loss, I know how blessed I am. I am one of the lucky ones, to have had a father like him. I wanted more time - OH how I wanted more time - but that longing cannot eclipse how grateful I am that he was my Dad. Is my Dad. He will always be my Dad.
Life trudges on. We get up in the morning, brush teeth, eat breakfast. The kids chatter about the day. Finn pulls a funny face and we all laugh. The ticker-tape whirs on in the back of my brain - Dad, Dad, Dad - but there are school lunches to pack and homework to do and play dates to arrange. I tiptoe from one end of the day to the other, and when the house falls silent and dark, when everyone is sleeping, I sit on the couch and I think.
I think about the last time I saw him. It was a beautiful, sparkling day. Memorial Day. He stood proudly by and watched Greta march in the parade. We walked thoughtfully together in the cemetery, honoring fallen soldiers. We ate sandwiches, lounged on the couch, chatting. It was a good day. A great day.
I know now how the simple act of the phone ringing, a few uttered words on the line, can bring your world crashing down. I feel the bewildered suddenness of it all; how someone so vibrant, so healthy and alive, can be snatched from your life without warning.
It makes me want to hug my family tighter, make every word count. My stomach tightens into a little ball every time we part. Bye! Have a good day! I chirp from the front porch as Greta trots onto the bus, Steve pulls out of the driveway or I drop Finn off at school, but grief tugs at these moments, whispering in my ear: it could be the last time you see them.
I sit on my couch and I think about the fragility of it all. And then I think about fear.
I don't want to live my life in fear.
I don't want to scramble to appreciate every moment out of fear that it could be a last moment. I don't want to be grateful for all that I have simply because one day it will be gone. But how - HOW - in the face of tragedy do you shake off the fear?
I want to soak in every moment simply because it is beautiful - or horrible, or joyful, or sad - just the way it is. I want the knowledge that it is all so fragile to bring acceptance and love into every interaction, however small. I want to live not in the fear of dying, but in the light of being.
This is the gift grief is giving me: a profound appreciation of all that is. I tuck my kids into bed at night and I fight back the whispering voice of fear. I bring faith into my heart and I think: this is good. Just the way it is.
I know now, too, that the things you remember most are the simple things. I remember birthdays, Christmases, graduations, of course I do, but mostly? Mostly I remember the flash of his smile, his strong hands doing dishes, the sparkle in his eyes, the funny sound he made with his mouth that made the kids laugh, and gave him his nickname: PopPop.
Those simple things are the everyday gifts, and they are everywhere, all the time. I will remember to look - to see - to appreciate all of it. Not with a heart full of fear, but full of gratitude.
I will put faith before fear. I will put faith before fear. I will.