“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” -Havelock Ellis
The medical term for what killed my father at the age of 36 is Cardiac Thrombosis, a blood clot to the heart. I’d love to be able to tell you that he was in excellent health but that would be stretching it. Smoking for many years, he did manage to quit in the year leading up to his death. What continued to plague him was high blood pressure and cholesterol. Did he die before his time? That’s such a cliché and simplifies what is a difficult subject. The basic philosophy held is that there isn’t a basic philosophy, everyone has a different take on the subject of our time here on earth. The thought of what could have been is what troubles most people who knew him. He had so much to live for… well we all do if we decide to live that way.
“He just fell”, is the only words my mother could express, as though she were paralyzed from any other form of articulation. All I was sure of in my six years of life so far was that I he died before I was ready for him to leave.
His death changed her forever. The only real sense of sadness I felt at the time was seeing my mother in such anguish at the funeral. She could never reconcile what had happened. As many young married couples, they had so many plans for the future and now they would never materialize. This inflicted me so much so that to this day I never plan anything.
Still, I couldn’t help but feel that my mother’s torment ran deeper than just the loss of a husband. She became adverse to certain members of the family as though they were responsible for my father’s’ death. As though something more than ‘natural causes’ precipitated these events by a few years.
As time preceded my mother’s smile was not as bright, as she developed a cynicism about life, always expecting the worse. Most nights, I would find her kneeling in the kitchen over an iron framed chair covered in red plastic as though she were in trance, reciting the rosary, either in a desperate attempt to turn back time or to make sure she would be with my father in the afterlife.
I can still hear her slow repetition of prayers in a sad, low voice. I realized at that moment that I would never have any magic words to heal her pain and consequently the one word she couldn’t bear to hear was my father’s name.
The only bright spot in this life for her now was her only child. I was a signs of everything good. But that is an awesome responsibility for adolescence, to be put on a pedestal where we all eventually fall. As I resemble my father in looks and mannerisms, I became her link to a past she could never fully be without, but at the same time seemed to painful to live with. I had to turn elsewhere to keep him alive in her eyes, even though it was only in memory. For death converts one from one form one of a relationship into another, sometimes in unexpected ways.
In time I would come to appreciate my mother’s unpretentious silent act of prayer. As pain is a part of transformation that ties in with faith, my gift to my mother would be to allow her the pain she needed to carry on. Even to the point where our relationship would be tested.
While others mourned hysterically or in quiet mediation over my father’s passing, I would never express grief over my loss, this was not to be mourned, maybe questioned as I certainly did, but not anguished over. In death, he simply transformed from a physical reality to a shadow figure that would always be with me. Though I felt anger at him for leaving my mother, I never felt any resentment at him for leaving me.
In some bizarre reality I sensed my father had to die so that I could better understand life. My perceptions were a direct link to my father, a pact before God. This strange reasoning was to occupy my thinking for years to come, not as a direct search for the answer, but as a lingering thought in the back of his mind, which I knew would one day present itself at its own time and method.
*Illustration courtesy of Pixabay