father’s day

It is my first Father’s Day without my father.

It is not my first Father’s Day without my father.

***

This morning I read this, by David Whyte:

The death of anyone close to us is always a form of salutation, a simultaneous good-bye to their physical presence and a deep hello to a more intimate imaginal relationship now beginning to form in their absence…

Immediate intrigue.  I am no stranger to the idea of a relationship forming and/or deepening with a person after his death, but it is nearly impossible to scale the wall of permanence that death leaves behind.  In the six months since my dad’s death, I have felt often like we are forever separated and I have spent countless hours wondering where he is.  Heaven?  An urn buried at the foot of his mother’s grave in South Texas?  In all the molecules of everything living on the planet?  Somewhere else?

Or, the most frightening – nowhere?

The thing about a living person is that you know where to find that person.  When my dad was alive, I could fly to Texas, drive to Waco, and then go see him in the nursing home.  He was not all there, for lack of a better phrase, but he was alive.  I knew where to go if I wanted to hold his hand or tell him I loved him – I couldn’t always be there when I wanted to be, but that’s beside the point.  Now there is no hand to hold and when I tell him I love him, I say it in my head or on the page, and that’s pretty much it.

No one ever told me that when someone close to you dies, you continue to love them.  It is such a perfect unrequited love, to love someone after they’re gone.

***

I have been grieving for much of my entire life.  My dad’s illness and the toll it took on my family and myself is a wound that has opened and healed and reopened and scarred through the years.  When I saw Father of the Bride as a preteen, I grieved heavily, because I knew it would never be like that for us.  When my dad didn’t show up to my school activities, I grieved heavily, because I wanted him to care.  When I moved away from Texas to California, I grieved heavily, because I didn’t want to leave him and yet I couldn’t stand the thought of staying another second.

Grief has been a constant companion of mine and that hasn’t changed with my dad’s death.  Father’s Day has always been tinged with a deep sadness – it doesn’t define the day, but it is undeniably there.  Due to the distance between us and my dad’s inability to communicate, we would go months without seeing each other, or even talking to each other.  The last six months have been remarkably similar to the rest of life before his death.

He could still be alive, for all I know.  Because I can’t stand the thought of him being nowhere.  I can’t stand the thought of never being able to find him again.

Denial is a powerful thing.

Denial

is an underestimated state of being. Denial is an ever present and even splendid thing when seen in the light of its merciful and elemental powers to cradle and hold an identity until it is ready to move on. Faced with the depth of loss and disappearance in the average life, a measure of denial is creative, necessary and self-compassionate: children are not meant to know they will one day die and older adults are never meant to tell them. Refusing to face what we are not yet ripe and ready to face can help us to live in the present. Denial fully experienced, also enables us to understand the full measure of our reluctance thus becoming a way of both paying attention to and appreciating what is asking to be seen. Denial is a beautiful transitional state every human being inhabits before they are emancipated into the next larger context and orphaned, often against their will, from their old home. 

Denial is ever present and unavoidable in a human life, even in the most accomplished guru; even in the Dalai Lama; it is a necessary dynamic so that the overpowering elements of a waiting, terrifying, universe can be held for now, over the horizon; denial belongs to us all. Denial can be a prison if inhabited in too concrete and unmoving a way, but denial is also a necessary stepping-stone and a compassionate foundation for viewing others who are not able to take the next courageous step. Denial can be a beautiful skin shed, left to be seen, or even to beautify and beatify others as they follow, wearing our former clothes. To understand the true nature of our reluctance through observing and then inhabiting our denial is to see directly into the soul’s wish to participate.

Excerpt from the essay “Denial” 
From the Up Coming Reader’s Circle II series
© David Whyte 2013

***

It is and is not my first Father’s Day without my father.

I am not ready to let go yet.

And I don’t even know if such a thing is possible.

Happy Father’s Day, wherever you are.

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