Saturday I was in pain. I hardly left comfy seated or horizontal positions and I only stopped crying for the duration of a movie almost as sad as my snowed-in, sad-as-hell day. Outside was changing at a rapid pace, snow piling on top of snow on top of a place so familiar. But I was trapped inside. Inside a familiar place without my person: my dad. A place I call home, but I returned here only to be reminded that it still doesn’t feel like what home should feel like. My dad still isn’t here, and yet I can find him everywhere. I feel him here. It’s subtle but it’s evident. Nothing has changed yet everything has changed. It’s been almost three years. Imagine that? A significant chunk of my life spent without my best friend. I’m still kicking. As they say, life goes on. But what goes on in my head isn’t moving forward. My head’s replaying every life-changing snapshot that my memory keeps on file for whenever grief takes control and presses play. No popcorn, no one else in the theater – just me all by myself watching what my slightly younger self witnessed in real life.
It’s a lot, I know. To bear the weight of these memories is just as tough as living them. Death is inevitable – unexpected at times – but nonetheless, it’s bound to happen to all of us. Why is it not something we openly talk about? Why do we live as though we are invincible? As though we will live out everything we intend to do? Why do people place their goals, dreams and desires so far in their future? We think we have so much time, but when we consciously think of our eventual demise, we realize just how limited our existence in this world will be. We should be doing everything we say we will. Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start, but it is completely unpredictable. You can plan ahead, sure, but how far ahead is too far ahead? It’s ideal to map out the future, but I believe it’s even more relevant to map out the now. What are you doing in this moment? What are you working on? What are you learning? Who are you with? Who are you right now?
I’d like to know why we’re so inclined to think long term. It’s out of our control. What we can do is focus on this very moment, this very day and actually live it. Saturday I was in pain: I focused on it and I lived it. I argued internally with myself. “I could be doing this and I should be working on this.” But I was so damn sad and I realized that I just had to be sad. No, I didn’t deserve to be sad. But grief pressed play and I couldn’t look away. I felt raw and broken reliving what you’d call a ‘tragedy.’ I call it my biggest fear, something that only crossed my mind being physically far away from home. I’d always wanted to have the answer, the cure for my dad’s unexplainable combination of medical conditions. I feared something would happen to him. And something did happen. Something that changed my life and caused me to reevaluate everything; to re-see my surroundings; to re-adjust my perspective. And to re-live that defining moment I’ve already lived and relived and relived.
I read a piece of advice today that urged readers to reflect on the past and what it has taught them. Most of the time, it said, we overcome challenges and we forget them. I paused. I re-read the sentence. I looked away to stare blankly into my surroundings as grief set my biggest fear in motion, again. My dad’s death wasn’t a challenge I overcame and forgot about, only revisiting it to remember its teachings. It is a part of who I am every day of the week since that Friday in June almost three years ago. In the story of my life, it is the turning point. The tragic event that sets the scene for the rest of the main character’s life. An intermission of sorts with an unforeseen change of events after the curtain reopens. And somehow (thank God), it isn’t the climax. It wasn’t downhill from there. While it has been the steepest uphill battle – with a few (okay, several) teary-eyed days in bed preventing forward movement – it has been an unforgettable reason to continue on.
I ask all the questions that will hold my curiosity but will never be answered. I experience life from a perishable perspective. I see with new eyes, especially when grief’s in charge of the viewing. I plan for now. It’s all we’re guaranteed to have.