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Good Grief - On Being Real

When I was little, I associated my dad's birthday with Victoria Day, because it fell on May 24th, and on some years, that would happen to coincide with the statutory holiday. On other years, the long weekend served as a marker to remind me that his birthday was coming up. I always imagined my dad as a misplaced royal, and to me, his name Richard conjured up great images of a powerful monarch. It seemed fitting, then, that his birthday came soon after the late queen's.

This year, he would have been 73. I envision that, had cancer never come, he would have been a fairly spritely senior citizen. He would have probably wanted to celebrate his big day with "no gifts," which always meant that of course he wanted us to get him something, preferably meaningful and thoughtful and not too pricey. If it was a new polo or dress shirt (or even a sweater), it would have to be in a bright, not depressing, colour. Festivities honouring the day would have involved a family feast (that he would want to prepare himself), an ice cream cake, and Happy Birthday sung in two different languages and 9 different keys. And to mark his 73rd year, I am certain that he would have gone on a cruise with my mom to the Caribbean. It would have been their 41st anniversary, and he always wanted to cruise again following his Alaskan adventure.

Alas, the conjuring abilities of my mind only serve to make the reality of his absence all the more painful. There is no day that goes by that he isn't thought of in some way. Sometimes the memory is an innocuous one, and bring forth feelings of amusement and joy. Sometimes, however, the most unsuspecting things may trigger thoughts that set off an avalanche of grief and loss that turns my world upside down momentarily.

I don't think anyone ever "gets over" the pain of losing someone they love. The hours of daylight might stretch longer, but the night always comes again. 

And so it is with me. While I might appear to be strong and brave and composed most of the time, my grief is always just lurking beneath the surface, threatening to emerge when I least expect to confront it.

This is my reality, and I would not be authentic as a writer if I didn't ever disclose this truth or mention this aspect of my life, even if it's a total Debbie Downer. That said, I am more than my grief.

We all are.

After all, people are fairly complex beings. We will obviously have days when we feel things so intensely that we want to express ourselves in melodramatic prose, or even abstract poetry. The content can be a bit sad or just plain depressing. We appeal to pathos because it reflects our own heart's melancholy song. However, we will also have days when we want to be angry, or silly, or insightfully bemused. On these occasions, our intention as writers is to share ourselves as authentically as we can and capture that part of us that wants to bring awareness, levity or simply a good belly-laugh to our audience. Today happens to be an emo one for me.

But I digress. It's Victoria Day, and my sorrow sits precariously close to the surface. Being in a different province altogether, I am unable to just hop into the car and visit my father's grave with an armful of stargazer lilies. Instead, I will have to send a proxy, which is typical of this gallivanting daughter of his; I have always opted to be (or called to be) somewhere else, and the guilt that I carry from not being "there" for his last days are treacherously toxic. It is one of those things I won't be able to fully reconcile until I'm on the other side of this life, a little bit of peace that yet eludes me.

But right now I choose to let the daylight in, and reject any inclination to wallow in sadness and grief for more than a moment. I have so much to feel joyful for, and deeper still than the sorrow is the everlasting hope that I have in Jesus. I am going to lean into that today, embracing the promise that my dad is enjoying his new home among the greatest of royalty - the King of Kings.

I imagine he's lounging on a really comfy sofa somewhere in Heaven.


Sharon said…
That little bit of elusive peace is a reminder that we're not made for this life... it makes sense to me that you experience it that way...

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