Spring arrived yesterday. The pink petals caught my attention, highlighting the sandy, desert landscape. I glanced at the unfolding, the complicated layers and how the curves turn corners, disappear and reappear in another home within each petal. The blush of the pink startled me with its undeniable beauty. I felt compelled to take a picture of this moment, but at the precise second I decided to document this wondrous rose, I also opened a door to my ambivalence.
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of my father’s passing. As the years fall on each other, like the release of a trail of dominoes, I am not certain how to bridge my ambivalence between the debut of spring and honoring my father’s death. There is a keen awareness of the pendulum of joy and sadness during this time, a theme which haunts much of my writing in this space. It’s not comfortable sitting with these diametric emotions, but I’ve learned to linger a little longer in this pool of difficult emotions because it is the place where most lessons are learned.
I replay the night of my father’s death over and over, the seconds, the moments leading up to the minute this little girl waved goodbye to her father. We didn’t have a last conversation and I didn’t say goodbye. But today, I realize, perhaps the timing of his exit was purposeful. Maybe he realized how the finality of witnessing him passing might impact me. So he shielded me. It’s what I am choosing to believe because it is the way I cope with not being present in those last moments.
That night, the anniversary of his passing and the debut of spring reminds me of one of my favorite Leonard Cohen quotes:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
Maybe that’s the point of spring, a reminder to relish the present and honor the joy of this moment, instead of moving through a painful montage of the past. This morning I took a walk, one of my father’s favorite activities and paid attention to the light blue sky, the flowers springing out of the cacti and the subtle breeze ushering in spring. There were several shades of colors, fiery orange, vibrant pinks and sunshine yellow accompanying me on my path. Each hue seem to send a message – Smile more. Be here now. Enjoy. Laugh. Remember the good times. I understand my sentimentality is heightened today especially, since this day is sandwiched between two bookends, spring and my father’s death.
But it becomes a matter of the perspective I choose to adopt. I’ve learned to accept my varying emotions on my father’s death, peering into a maze, trying to find a place for my grief to land. It isn’t always easy, but I am learning. I may sink into the cracks, but I am learning to stand up and look for the light. Grief has a way of allowing you to turn those corners and it is sometimes wholly unexpected. Instead of tears streaming down my face today, I am remembering all of my favorite moments of my dear dad: the way we talked about John F. Kennedy, how he adored quotes much like I do, how he enjoyed hours on end in his office, writing and reading and listening or how he could burst into a quick dance with my mom at the kitchen table.
Recounting these moments make me miss him even more, but I’m also smiling too.
I am lucky to have this kind of love. The one that can buoy me even in my darkest moments.