Nighttime is the most difficult for some reason. When it is dark and Matt is calm, I think about the void of my dad’s presence. When there are no other distractions, I feel his absence. And that’s when the thoughts come rolling in. What do I really think about my dad’s death? Where has his soul gone? Is it anywhere? When someone so dear to you dies so suddenly and it seems far before “his time” what are you supposed to believe? Up until this point I considered myself to be an optimist when it came to my beliefs on death. I wouldn’t have labeled myself as religious– I didn’t believe in a heaven per se, but I believed that when someone died their “soul” was released into the universe. I believed that their energy became a part of everything –they weren’t in heaven but they were at rest and still with their loved ones in some way.
But I had never experienced real loss before.
My beliefs on death combined with having to hear the same phrases over and over again catapulted me into a fervent search for signs: Signs that he is sending us in his death, signs from his past showing that this was inevitable, signs that this hurt could somehow be a part of some plan that is far too big for my small human brain to comprehend. There are so many signs.
While I was in undergrad I rarely called home—once every few weeks at most. But once I moved to Minneapolis for grad school, which were the last few months of my dad’s life, I called every day. Every day. I can’t tell you why.
In the last months of my dad’s life he got a Facebook. He was so against all things millennial and all things that promote the demise of face to face interaction, but he got one. And he reconnected with so many old friends that he never would have if he had not made it on a whim one night.
The weekend before he died he left my mom alone with Matt for an entire weekend—something he hadn’t done in years—so he could finally come see my apartment in Minneapolis. He had been trying to come visit me since I moved there in August and it was never the right time and then my car randomly broke and he had to come to help me buy a new one and I saw him, I saw him the week before he died when prior to this I would go months without seeing him. My car broke so that I could see my dad one last time, right?
My sister recently started dating someone who lives in Chicago and when she would drive from Madison to visit him she would always stop home. She stopped home the night before he died.
The last thing he said to me was in a text message hours before he passed: “Goodnight sweet princess”
There has to be a reason behind the pain.
After he died more signs came. Birds hovering outside of our windows, objects falling, weather being incredibly unpredictable. I can hear the disdain in others’ voices as I say, “something else weird happened”. I can feel myself reaching for anything that might tell me that he is somehow still here. I’m grasping for signs like someone who is drowning gasps for air because how could he just be gone?
Then the dark thought that has been waiting for me to stop trying to make sense of the senseless takes over. He is gone. No rhyme or reason, no signs, no plan, nothing; he is just gone.
I fight this thought because he was just here, his boisterous laugh ringing through our home, his life advice, his wisdom and experiences; how can an entire life just cease to exist? As I write this, it all feels so futile because I realize that death is so much a part of life but I’m only 23 and he was only 59. I thought I had so much more time with my mentor, role model and best friend— it just doesn’t feel natural. I still needed him. I wanted him to be there for so many things.
I am now forced to ask myself, do I keep looking for signs or do I remember the past fondly and accept that I will never feel his presence again?
As I write this there is a part of me that feels his embrace. Honestly, I am aware that this feeling could be one of the incredible things that the human brain is capable of creating in times of loss, but for tonight, I am going to choose to embrace back.