I was sheltered - charmed, if you will. I was spared my first real experience with losing someone I knew well, someone I loved, until I was nearly 29 years olds. That was when we lost my father-in-law. Framing it as such – “my loss,” was and remains complicated. I was relegated to the shadows because it really and truly was and is still my husband’s loss. To lose one’s father – if you were lucky enough to have had a good one - is a huge, unexplainable, bottomless pit of a loss. I think it is second only to losing a spouse, or a child or maybe a brother or sister. So, for me to struggle to make sense of the loss of my father-in-law, to grieve for the first time as an adult dealing with death full on…let’s just suffice to say, I was a novice. Tears were plentiful but inadequate.
In the years that followed, I lost my grandmothers, my husband’s grandparents, an aunt. All of these losses were sad for me, and I empathized enormously with the children and spouses of the deceased. But nearly four years ago, I lost my father. That’s when I became an expert on my own grief. One can only hope to unravel their own grief as it is a different beast with each loss, for each person; therefore, having had a father with whom I could have a real relationship, the loss was deep and multi-faceted. There was the initial shock and heart-ache, the panic, the worry over my mother, the longing for one last conversation. It still creeps up on me and stings my eyes with uninvited tears from time to time. My dad was at times an ass, and a pill, but mostly he was a treasure, an icon, a dear, and I miss him terribly.
So, as I take a moment to appreciate the Day of the Dead, I am sorry for my Anglo-culture that pushes death aside and leaves it buried in the graveyard. I know I could create some ritual for myself and my family to purposefully and properly take note of those who have left us. Instead, I pick up my computer and muse hoping to strike a cord with my living loved ones who know the empty echo in their hearts created by loss. It is a weak and feeble gesture, yet a deep felt nod of appreciation for those who have passed on, for those who are gone but not forgotten. Now that I think about it, maybe I just need to add some tequila.