Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Out of Sight

We all have ideas about what will happen to us when we die. But none of that becomes real until you lose someone you love. It has been two months since my Dad passed away. And all of my hypothetical ideas about death and the afterlife have become very real questions about where my Dad's spirit resides and whether he is ok.

As he was nearing the end of his life, I was lucky to spend a lot of time with my Dad. And that deep connection carried me for many weeks after he passed away. For the first few weeks, I could still sense his spirit all around me. Whenever I would think of him, a faded image of my Dad's face would appear up in the corner of my mind. Always on the right side. Always smiling. One day, I took a walk in our neighborhood and my Dad walked the entire way right beside me.

And I have seen him in my dreams, too. A few days after the funeral I had a dream where he was standing in the church talking to the priest who gave the sermon at his funeral mass. It was a younger version of him. I leaned in to hear what they were talking about, but I couldn't quite make out the words. Then the younger version of my Dad started walking and I followed him. He led me to a row of folding chairs where I encountered an older version my Dad sitting with one of my nieces. I sat down beside him and leaned into him.

A few days after that, I had another dream about him. This time I was driving in my car along a winding road and there was this huge beam of white light next to the road. It looked like a rainbow, but it was made of all white light. I kept trying to get a better look at it and finally I pulled over to the side of the road to catch a glimpse. I opened up the sunroof of my car and poked my head through it. Immediately I was immersed in the blue sky and the hazy clouds and that beam of white light. It felt like I was surrounded by my Dad's spirit. I said "This is beautiful, Dad." And then I woke up.

Those sightings, even if they are in dreams, have brought me so much comfort and helped to pull me through. As more time has passed, I have had fewer experiences of my Dad's presence. I know that he is still with me. It just seems like he is further away.

In some ways it is getting easier as the weeks go by. I used to sit out on the balcony at our apartment and cry every single morning. Now the bursts of tears come on a less predictable schedule.

My grief has become less raw, but somehow more profound. At first, it almost felt like my Dad's death was just a temporary thing and eventually he would be coming back. Now it is starting to set in that he is really gone. At least in a physical sense. And I won't ever get to see him again or have a conversation with him that does not take place in my own head.

Sometimes I wish I could just sit out on the balcony and talk to my Dad all day. In the first few weeks, that is pretty much what I did. Now, as I have begun to get back to work and my daily life, I don't sit out there as much or initiate conversations with him by talking into the air. I still talk to him in my car a lot. Or when there is something that I really need to say.

The whole series of events is quite unbelievable. It all happened so fast. Even though I was there every step along the way, I still can't believe that he is gone. It doesn't make any sense. As I try to go on with my life, I am struggling to figure out how I can stay connected to my Dad. I don't want him to think that I have forgotten about him.

My Dad loved to be with his family. It is what brought him the greatest joy and satisfaction in his life. He was always happy to see me when I stopped by.  Always waiting at the door to greet me with a smile and a hug and ask "How's life as an unemployed person?" Even though I have been working as a freelance writer for almost two years. Here on earth there was always something for him to do, somewhere to go, snacks to be made, and conversations to listen to. I don't want him to be alone.

I wonder where my Dad is and how he is doing. I wonder if he misses us as much as we miss him. Although I guess I don't have to wonder too much about that. I know that he does. And if he could be down here with us, he would much prefer that to being anywhere else.

As I look toward the future, I already regret that I won't be able to ask my Dad for his opinions or advice. Although he tended to offer those things sparingly, they always seemed to be well-thought and perfectly timed. I wish I had written more of them down.

I just want to find a way to be close to him and feel his energy. I want to continue to sense his presence. I remember once when I was talking about my meditation practice, my Dad jokingly said that I was "talking to the trees." A few days before he died, I told my Dad that someday when I am talking to the trees, I will be talking to him. I asked him to listen for me because I will be trying to reach him. And I promised that I would listen for him too.

Every time I sit down to meditate, I hope for some sign that he is with me. A few weeks ago, I felt a strong pull of energy up towards the sky. It felt like a ladder. I tried to focus on it, but nothing happened. A few days later, it showed up again, just for a few seconds. I have started referring to it as my "spiritual beanstalk." The next time it showed up, I started to climb it. Slowly and methodically. Trying not to let myself get distracted by thoughts or questions about where I was going.

I haven't been able to reach the top of the beanstalk. At least not yet. But I have a feeling that my Dad is up there waiting for me. Don't worry Dad, I'll be there soon. I just have to keep on climbing.

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