This essay was written 122 days after the death of my father. It has now been 661 days since my father has passed. I am keeping the title of the essay because I am being guided by a force of indelible patience and magnanimity, so spiritually we continue to commune. I loved him — naturally. My mother, her voice shaking and shocked on the other end of the phone, as I listened to her tell me I am never going to see my father physically again. My best friend was in the room, silent. I went to the porch and began to cry. The same way I am crying while typing this essay.
It may be impossible for me to describe the impact my father had on the man I am becoming. For the years where he scolded me and held me are in the past I drag those moments where ever I go, or it may drag me. Therefore, the simplest thing I can say concerning my past and my father’s life is that I have no choice but to recognize the similarities in the depth of our lives. His life seemed to be the unfortunate destruction of a prodigy. His life was a tragic hero journey, the responsibility of his mission on this planet and the pain of unmet desires festered in my father until it killed him. Time was to prove, he was no prodigy, but only a man. But by the time I recognized my father was only a man, they already started lowering the casket. I wanted him to know I loved him and we shared the same silence and loneliness. We shared the understanding of two soldiers fighting the same battle only them knowing the price and darkness of the war. We need witnesses to get through this life and I did not get to meet my fathers eyes and let him know I am familiar with those trenches.
Days after his passing, immaturely, I grew resentful because his death seemed like an act of betrayal, the work to amend a relationship is never easy so while he was living I considered time my last hope of redeeming the pain of our separation. Or, in other words, I knew my father couldn’t make up for his absence in my life, but I believed if we both lasted long enough the past would become a period we avoided reflection. It was an illusory and fearful assumption that time would heal our split, as time passed the shame deepened and our distance only grew. I put faith in a future I was not working towards.
I loved him and I knew he loved me, but we both could not afford the disaster of rejecting one another. It may seem dramatic, yet it is the only honest way I can put it; it is not delusional at all but it came out of the world I saw all around me. To confront the pain you have caused in other peoples lives is to journey through your own lamentations and disconsolations. To alchemize this common fear of looking into every pain and love that made you, into a desire to express compassion and regret is a true apology. It is what you do for those you love. We shared the same distance as he and his father and to travel between islands is a tiresome journey few have the energy to make and no one can make with compassion. I heard a song that said, “a motherless child has a hard time!”, but so do the fatherless.
For, in the years that I was growing up with my mother in Hope, Hot Springs, and Dallas. I needed you, but I told myself I didn’t, and I was going to prove it to myself. Because a man can not escape his past I dragged you with me, in me, to the football field, back alleys where we smoked before school, bed room and where ever else I was found. One of the results of this is you became an archetype, a symbol to me, exactly what you were all your life. You were no longer my father but a God, I was reaching for but could never touch.
The day of my father’s funeral had also been the first time I have seen my beautiful baby sister since she was 8 months. As we drove to the graveyard she leaned on my arm, with our brother on the other side acting as a pillar of protection between her and the world. It seemed to me that God himself had called him home so we could realize that responsibility. As his firstborn this is a responsibility I take seriously.
His death seemed to be a corrective for the pride of his eldest son, I never believed he would die before I could tell him how much he meant to me. Life seemed to be saying, this is your reminder that everybody dies and they are dying all around you, that I must make amends. Even with those that have caused me much pain there must be at-one-ment and reconciliation. I had inclined to be contemptuous of my father for his absence in my life. When that life ended I began to wonder about that life and became more inquisitive about the conditions of my life. Suddenly I became compassionate when I understood that a man that sees no end to the suffering or a lessening of the pain must do something about this eternally tormenting position.
I had not known my father very well, and I believe not many people knew my father too well. The side of my father I knew, unfortunately, we both shared the smile that pretended everything was alright, and it is the death of us both. When he was dead I realized that I did not speak to him for four years. The moment he died I began to wish I could see him smile.
My father was very handsome, proud, and unrestrained. As I gather from his presence as a child he always looked to be holding something deeper and unsaid behind that smile. I believe that whatever that was, lent him his tremendous power and charm. When we were growing up he was a young man that already suffered many ruins, and it affected every one of his relationships even with his absence in our lives I knew he loved us tremendously. It showed on his face and our face if we were ever in the same room.
When he stepped into any room, space instantly became lighter and he controlled the energy in that room. From what I gather in his early life he always had the tremendous ability to establish contact with other people. When he gave wisdom that compassion behind it allowed me to listen and understand the importance of what he was sharing with me. I do not remember not being ecstatic to see him.
When he had died I was on one of those journeys where life seems to be testing and abusing you at every turn. In that year I had time to become aware of the suffering life compiles on you, and the expectation of dealing with it all. I began to understand how that pain you drag must be consoled. I had discovered the weight of the world and I discovered the pain you lived with could make you a very nasty person. And the silence and pain that killed my father could also kill me. I do not know if he was being eaten up by paranoia, but the discovery that behind that smile was so much pain, it struck me that “healing” and destroying those assumptions that created you and harm you is constant work.
I began to forgive him and felt relief that he did not have to suffer anymore. The problems he was facing meant nothing to me as a child, I do not believe any child can understand the pain of their parents until that child try’s to love someone, starts a family or being a look into their own pain. But I believe once you understand that your parents are human beings and like you, they are situations sometimes that seem incontrollable. That pain has to come out somewhere, and I understand because I have been there. When it feels like you can’t do anything and it comes out in the people closest to you. I have to remember that you can not be romantic about human nature.
Love is the only reliable source for helping each other in this world. I continue to suggest that loving deeply fully and rationally is the way to treat each other. People need to be loved and there is so much shame around the way some people handle there suffering, only through empathizing can we understand. But compassion “ to suffer with” opening your heart to another human heart is our mission.
Our eternal responsibility is to because loving individuals and that happens through cultivating that difficult state of being alone to analyze the assumptions that created you. You must compel yourself to linger with your aloneness and not become distracted by the trivialities of modern life, so you can focus on what is important. As James Baldwin said, “ The conquest of the physical world is not man’s only responsibility. He must conquer the great wilderness of the self.” I am currently on my journey to love the world and I once questioned if I will survive but I would not be walking if I couldn’t. I tell myself every death is not a goodbye because we all have an energy guiding us to conquer realms and reach paradise. We have to listen.