One year ago this week I watched as my kids walked straight towards a life-changing experience without wavering. They began to learn about real life decisions and how to face the uncertainty with grace. At times I am stopped when I remember that despite their own years of heartbreak, they graciously loved their dad until the end.
It still amazes me that their dad is gone. I think about him often. I wonder what he must have been feeling, deep in his heart, to allow himself to spiral into the end of his life the way he did. I become saddened when I picture the once vibrant, healthy and alive man who became one who was unable to get out of his own cycle of self-defeat. The memories of a once happy life remain in my heart; kids being born, family vacations, birthday celebrations, the infamous all-nighter ‘Santa Claus can’t get the spring horse together’, and so many more.
There are times when I see him in each of the kids. Small little mannerisms that would go unnoticed by most. I see them. I know where they are rooted from. It is baffling to me that even though he was minimally involved in their lives, they each have innate and distinct characteristics.
For me this experience has had many layers. Watching how the kids dealt with it, but also observing how I have too. It is not like I haven’t experienced death. I had lost a dear friend right after high school and my sweet grandmother died when I was a young adult, but this loss has been my first experience in the finality of death. The finality in wishing I could talk to him, wanting to have had him suffer less, wanting to relive the final days and say something more.
Sometimes I see him when I am walking. It might be in the sensation of the breeze, the hawk overhead, or simply a presence. I know he is around. I ask him to watch what the kids are doing and share in the amazement of who they are. I ask him to make sure that somehow they each know he is seeing them.
Death is a strange thing. Feelings arise at times least anticipated and yet I am certain that each October, I will have a tenderness in my heart as I think of the twenty days we waited and watched. We watched him, and we watched each other grow in ways that cannot be described.
My prayer is that he is now finally watching.