Today marks the day that my father died. For a day of such huge significance however, it is not a day that I normally dwell on. I'm always aware in the week that precedes it that it is coming but there is no tradition or event or ritual that is followed to acknowledge the date or passing of time. Perhaps another part of the loss, is the fact that my father is buried far, far away in the country of his birth, so there has never been a place that my family members and I have ever gathered to commiserate or to show our respect. There is no place to lay flowers, no gravestone to clean or polish and this is not something I have ever grieved since it has not been a part of the journey of loss for me. My faith, even since my bereavement at such a tender age, has always given me the assurance that my connection to the father goes beyond any place that his body lays. That said, one of the greatest tortures of my younger years was the tiny seed of doubt that questioned if my father had indeed passed away. Since I never attended his funeral and never saw his lifeless body, perhaps there had been a mistake? For years, if I saw a man who resembled my father, for a moment, that fleeting hopeful, betraying moment, as my heart rate soared I would believe he was alive. Alive! Only for the inevitable - the slightly embarrassed realisation of my error quickly followed by the almost indescribable burn of the loss once more.
It's interesting to me that when I mentioned in passing to my children that today is the day that their grandfather died, they were empathic yet unperturbed. The story of their grandfather's life very much surpasses any focus on his death. By this I mean, my father and his story is inherently built within the fabric of their own lives. He is living and present in this way. He is part of our conversations and a part of our storytelling. He is part of them in name and his blood runs through their veins, something they proudly wear on their sleeves.
Up until I was I think five or six years old, I obsessively carried my baby blanket around with me. It was named 'shawlie'. One day my brother, my elder by seven years, challenged me to throw my shawlie into the sea. I watched my companion of five/six years slowly and then very, very quickly disappear up and over the crashing white waves suddenly processing that this was goodbye. I had thought I was ready to say goodbye, I of course was not. This is still how I feel about my father's death. I think I am ready to accept the abscence and say goodbye once and for all but of course I am not. He is further and further out to sea, drifting always, out of my reach. If I squint, I might just catch sight of him. Some days my hand almost reaches his, on others my hands do not even leave my sides to reach out into the distance and yet, there are those days where I see him standing alongside me on the shore. He is quiet and so am I. He seldom appears in this way but when he does I am left with the whispers of him for days and days.