The 32nd anniversary of my Dad’s death is not long past. The second anniversary where old grief meets new grief. Thirty two years ago and still, I miss him and wonder about the many might have been moments. With Covid 19 on something of a rampage, this was the first year that my Mam, didn’t get to attend his anniversary mass. Social distancing and cocooning of our vulnerable has meant that this mass was said behind closed doors. To be honest, she was very sanguine about it, even though this mass signifies so much more for her in her mourning than it does for me.
Thirty two years, a lifetime. Thirty two years worth of time to get accustomed to absence as opposed to twenty two months. The permanence of death is hard to process whatever the number. Let no one tell me, that twenty two months is sufficient timespace for my world to recalibrate, for my life axis to be re-aligned with the living world or for my broken heart to heal. Twenty two months of grieving and mourning allows me to function, with some degree of outward normalcy, on some days or at least with whatever degree of normalcy depleting hormones allow.
Twenty two months, has provided me with time to develop some self preservation skills to ramble around my own landscape of grief, at my own pace and in my own time. Twenty two months has made me fiercely and defiantly protective of my right to grieve and mourn John’s death. Twenty two months has engendered a huge feeling of comfort around using the word “NO and more freedom to say “Yes”. Twenty two months has instilled in me, a huge compassion for others bereaved by other permanent deaths. Twenty two months in which to realise that death is not competitive, the right to grieve doesn’t have to be earned, death just hands you an unwanted, all access pass.
Twenty two months to accept that John’s death will never ever make any sense to me but my response to his death makes perfect sense. Twenty two months to accept that my recurring feelings of disbelief are not the same as denial. Twenty two months in which to become more familiar and comfortable with naming and feeling the gambit of emotions which dance their way in and out of my being, with grief, longing and loss at the epicentre. An epicentre that can shift shape and size with prodigious haste. Twenty two months to reconcile, joy, beauty and love within the vast landscape of loss.
Twenty two months to fully understand that your death brought me to a place beyond sad, John, I am lonely with the loss of you.
Twenty two months to become attuned to the physical surges that these emotions generate in my body. Sometimes, like a defiant firework impatient to explode. Other times like molten lead swirling softly in a man made mold of memory. Sometimes, like a great sea swell and other times like ripples from a cast out fishing line forming near perfect concentric circles that are somewhat soothing just under my gaze.
There is beauty in the movement of both.
This year, 32 years after my Dad’s death at the age of 61, my loss of him and his absence is like a wistful presence. I remember him well. There is no longer anything defiant about my grief at my Dad’s death, the years have softened it and the memory of the pain has been obscured by decades of living. I’m never quite sure if I ever really allowed myself feel all of that pain, at all or I may have just forgot, the substance and the detail of the pain, that is not the man.
Since John’s death I remember more, I have glimpses of an internal life that I lived way back when I was 19 and a twenty something. Smote like particles of recall readily attach to this current life. This current life proffers an insight that was beyond the ken of my nineteen year old self. My present unveils in segments, skeins of my past. John & I mourned our Dad. Quietly over the years and spectacularly and splendidly one night around a kitchen table in the Turlough Rd, many many years ago. It has been one of my most treasured memories. A surge of connection and love in mourning together, that felt special even in the moments of the night.
My favourite place, the Guillamenes, was one of my Dad’s favourite places and one of my brother’s favourite places. It is imbued with memory, love, knowledge and intimacy. It has been the place that connected us with Dad, in our own private way. It is ever changing in its daily presentation of its inherent beauty but faithfully constant in its existence. I am so comfortable there. It is akin to home, it is as familiar as the house and the road that I grew up in. It has rocks and crevices, eddies and flows, pooling places and hideaways that I know like the back of my hand. Quietly, privately, instinctively, regularly, alone or in company and for many years unknowingly , it is there that I mourn my Dad. The nod to Dad’s rock, three fingers aloft, three more casts at the end of the day. I still miss you.
There, for moments in the sea breeze or buoyed by the swell, there is no need to forget. From my first visit after and in the subsequent twenty two months, it is there that I mourn for John with some degree of ease. Comfortable in my grieving skin. Sea dancing in crisp cold Atlantic waters that ground me while I am everywhere else. There was never any doubt, was there John?…………….That there’d be space for you there .