Grief is a hard thing for me to talk about. This year has taught me more about grief than I thought I ever would learn at 26/27; and given me a pretty constant, oppressive sense of sorrow to boot. They come and they go at the strangest times, in the strangest ways.
Today, I realized in looking at my calendar, is one of the most important days of my father's life. Today's the day he ran for mayor, running a campaign that absolutely gave the incumbent - who by trickery was listed as both the Republican and the Democratic candidate on the ballot - a run for his money. He had under 10% of the total money to work with of his opponent, and received 40% of the vote, absolutely annihilating his projections. He was told he'd never make it into double digits, and he blew that concept out of the water.
He was told he'd be gone in less than 72 hours. He lived almost 6 more days.
He taught me a lot about fighting even when the odds are against you.
As I sat next to his hospital bed in Philly, we had a lot of time to talk, and I had a lot of time to talk at him when he couldn't join in anymore. We talked about lots of things, from his past, to his hopes and dreams for me, to New England sports, to politics, to family. In his final days he was so thankful of the people who had come into and out of his life. He spent most of his time asking after certain people, or making sure that I would reach out to certain people he wouldn't be able to. People. It always came back to people. So when I talked at him, I told him stories about people. Some that he knew, some that he'd never have the fortune of knowing. I told him about people from my past, and my present. I told him about my fears, my dreams, my accomplishments, my failures. I told him I loved him.
If I learned anything from the experience of watching my father drift away into a sleep from which he'd never return, and then living alone in his house for months, taking care of his business, and then dealing with the emotional, mental, and life fallout from all of that, I learned that loneliness is sudden, oppressive, and often arrives without warning. And without people, people you trust, people you care about, there's almost nothing that can beat it back. And there will be times where those people won't be there, can't be there, and you have to face that loneliness yourself. So what do you do?
Me? I create.
I pick an idea and I break it apart, looking for that morsel of a spark that inspires me to put pen to paper and see what comes out. I jump onboard a friend's idea and fight to make sure that it comes to life. I call creative people, talk through concepts, hear their feedback. I plan grand, impossible ideas, and then I figure out how to make them anyways. I write until the urge to sob subsides. I sit down, and I look at my life, and I see what logistically I can possibly make that will stem the flow of grief for just a little while. They tell me someday that flow will subside, it will stunt, dampen, dull and then cauterize, allowing my feeling of it to numb.
God, I hope not, if I l've learned anything this year, it's that it's okay to feel.
When my father passed, he had regrets. Things he wanted to do that he never did. Places he wanted to see that he never saw. People he wanted to meet that he never met. Experiences he wanted to have that he never had. But right towards the end, I think when he realized that his odds weren't good, he started to listen to himself. He started walking his path, lived in the way he wanted to live, and he lived for himself.
I made a choice, February 3rd, 2016, to remember the times that I felt the most like myself, and to start living like that again. Those times, I found, were when I was flying full speed, projects in tow, passions and heart on my sleeve, working with people I trusted, creating art, celebrating the things I love, and experiencing life in the company of those that I love.
So what now?
The world is my oyster. I want to know that when my time comes, either at a ripe old age, or unexpectedly premature, that I did the hell out of life while I was at it. Not for Dad, but for me. I'll continue to meet new people, create new things, further my life, further my friends, further my family.
One of my favorite quotes comes from a TV show called Community, in an episode called The Psychology of Letting Go. In it, one of the main characters' mother passes away. She leaves him a message that means a lot to me, and I think about it every day.
"I'm gone, Pierce...gone forever, and that's how I like it. Life is only worth a damn because it's short. It's designed to be consumed, used, spent, lived, felt. We're supposed to fill it with every mistake and miracle we can manage, and then we're supposed to let go."
I don't suppose I'll ever know if my Dad felt that his life was consumed, used, spent, lived, felt. I won't know if he feels he filled it with every mistake and miracle that he could manage. And I'll never know if that's why it took him so long to let go. But you better believe that I'll make 6 more mistakes before bed, and experience at least 1 miracle.
And I'll wake up tomorrow with a smile, and a throbbing ache, ready and excited for more.
Photo by Danny Bristoll
(fac·to·tum | \ fak-ˈtō-təm) noun - a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
I find myself hilarious, and I use this blog to stroke my own ego. Thanks for indulging me.