This December, I have done something different. I have said, “No, thank you.” “Sounds lovely, let me see how I feel.” “I think I’ll pass.” I have delighted in solitude, quiet, time alone. Reflection has been my companion. The perfect day involves writing, a walk in the crisp air with the bird’s song replacing my iPhone, a bit of conversation with a family member or friend. My camera has been my sidekick…my memory-keeper to such moments. It has been a delicious December.
That does not mean that I have not had stress, worry, grief, and bouts of “shoulds.” I’m just learning what feeds me, and not running from myself anymore.
December is a month of light, and birth, and renewal. And for me, and many others, it is also a month of darkness, death, and fear—fear that the grief of losses will swallow us up.
My father died on December 14, 2012, just two days before what would have been his 83rd birthday. He got to hold me in his arms when I was born. I got to hold him in my arms as he died. Ours was a relationship of love and pain; joy and sadness; security and distance. It was not the thing of Hallmark movies, but he was my father, and I loved him. I loved him when he walked through the door and scooped me up in his arms, and cried out, “How’s my sweetheart, baby girl?” I loved him when he hemmed me into his leather chair, the sweet smell of pipe tobacco swirling, and read me bedtime stories.
I loved him when he left for days, his clothes strewn about his Continental, not knowing when he would return. I loved him when he returned with promises that things would be better. I loved him when he was absent for many years; absent in time and space, and then absent emotionally. I loved him as he grew into an old man who was quiet, prone to depression, but who always told me, “I love you, Suz’.” He was my father…and I love him. Present tense.
I learned a lot when I wrote GriefINK. I learned from the thirty-plus people I interviewed for this book; that the love we have for our family members is often very messy. I learned that if I talk about the death, then I get to talk about life. I learned that my relationship with my father did not end on December 14th. He is still my father. I am still the daughter of Anthony Rores. He shows up in me, the good, the bad, all of it.
This year, as my family and I decorated the tree and set up the house with the manger scene and endless Nutcrackers, I savored every moment as though I, myself, were experiencing it for the first or last time. Death and loss has brought immediacy to living; that each moment is a gift from God. How I chose to perceive these moments, experiences, losses, and joys is up to me.
Today, I chose to see my father’s life as a gift. Dad, I miss you, and I love you. Happy Birth Day.