When someone you love dies, the timeline of your life splits in two. The day of their passing becomes a gate between two distinct periods: The time before that day is filled with the subtle but unmistakable color of their presence. The time after seems dark, a grayscale desert. Nothing is the same. Everything is different without them.
I knew losing a parent would be harder than other losses, of course. And although the dramatic wailing and phone-dropping I imagined didn’t occur, my father’s passing introduced a new type of pain – A pain of emptiness, of blacks and grays and a profound awareness of a missing piece to the puzzle.
But as the days passed, it was like my dad became more real again in a way. My father the man was gone, but my father the essence was still very much here. I started seeing shades of him in places I never really took note of before.
His meticulous financial acumen in my sister. His way with electronics in my brother. His wanderlust, love of nature, and sometimes twisted sense of humor in me. His tender hearted love of animals in us all, and in turn in our children. There is no doubt that he’s gone, and we feel that loss profoundly. But he left pieces of himself, scattered among his children, grandchildren, and indeed everyone whose life he ever touched.
I recently read an essay on dying in a Buddhist magazine, and it included a poem, part of which I will read here:
With your every movement
Worlds rise, flourish, burn and are dispersed
As your gestures tear through
the luminous heart of space
Before anything was born,
After all has died,
You are the zero point.
This poem is about Kali, the Hindu goddess of time, change, preservation, creation and destruction, but it seems to apply to us all. My father, like the rest of us, is the point at which a million universes burst forth, and from each of them, a million more. Every trip we went on. Every movie we watched. Every snowman we built and Christmas we shared. Every swim we took. You all have these moments too, where his influence was felt and continues to be felt, and that influence is timeless, infinite.
My childhood with my father has consumed my mind lately, realer in a way than it was before he left. I remember picking dandelions in the yard when their delicate yellow leaves had transformed into a shock of lighter than air white. I knew I shouldn’t, that it would wreck the lawn, but I couldn’t resist plucking them, raising them to the sky, and blowing.
My dad, like all those who came before, and like all of us here right now, is the zero point. The big bang. The dandelion head. A wish whispered and fulfilled. And as we seeds blow on the breeze, I think he would want only one thing: That we fly free, bury ourselves in the warm soil, and go on to seed again.