It’s been 8 1/2 months since my dad died, and I’m walking this weird road of grief, more nuanced and shaded and blatant than I had ever expected. Yesterday in church we were singing the closing hymn, and as I started to sing the first line of the last verse, my throat closed up and my eyes started to water and I was done: “That, when our life of faith is done, in realms of clearer light, may we behold You as You are, with full and endless sight.”
One of the blessings of having had this three month sabbatical is the spaciousness of time which has allowed me room for grief that I had not realized I needed. If anything, I miss my dad more now than I did at first. My first birthday without him was like a sword in my heart; my parents’ anniversary popped up in my digital calendar and I was shocked at the affront I felt that he wasn’t here to celebrate with Mom.
It helps so much that others grieve, though I do not wish grief on anyone. Grief finds us all, I suppose; it’s the price of loving. Today as I write, I think about my dear friend from college whose father died within days of my dad’s death. I think about beloved church members whose names we will recite this year on All Saints Day and how awful that will be. I think about my neighbor and his family living the last year with the diagnosis of a stage 4 glioblastoma. John McCain’s death, and all that surrounded that, gave me such empathy for his family in their grief. I think about the family of Botham Jean, the man shot and killed in his own apartment by a police officer who thought he was in her own apartment, and their grief that is compounded by – well, everything.
My father’s death was not tragic nor was it the stuff of nightly news. For that I am immensely grateful. But I miss him so much. I miss skirting around politics and playing cribbage and losing to him at dominos. I miss our inside joke about watching the cottonwood trees shimmer in the breeze. I miss his common sense, and his unending curiosity about things. I miss having a dad around, right there at the other end of the phone line.
Halloween decor is flooding the market place now, the next big holiday to sate our consumerist hungers. I don’t much care for Halloween – I don’t like to be scared, and there’s a lot of free-floating sugar going around. I’ve started wondering if on Halloween, on All Hallows Eve, my dad will come visit in some way. Weird thinking, I know, but grief can do strange things to one’s belief system.
I hope he doesn’t come visit, because it is my deep hope that he is resting in peace, whatever that means. It is my deep hope that all he needed to accomplish was done by the time he took his last breath, so that there is no reason for him to come back. Maybe in the end, all of us whom he loved knew that he loved us: the great accomplishment, and maybe the only truly necessary one.
Saints, not ghosts.