Surviving

I've been thinking about what it takes for me to survive. I think part of my survival has been my ability to remain passionate about certain things, like books, art, poetry, film, music. It still excites me to be alive. I justify my existence by claiming to live not only for myself but for my father. He is dead. He cannot be here to see the new spring. He has missed so much. As unbearable as it is to live without him, I want to be around as long as possible. I want to read all of Virginia Woolf's books, watch every film by Ingmar Bergman, listen to Cat Power's next great album. I want to keep growing and learning and being curious because that's what makes me happy. That's also why death terrifies me--not only does the body end, but knowledge ends. No more songs. No more creativity. No more humanity. I cannot fathom it.

I am obsessed with Krzysztof Kieslowski again. Today, I watched a short documentary about Three Colors: Red, the last film in the three colors trilogy. Blue represented freedom; white, equality; and red, fraternity. Kieslowski's films explore chance, coincidence, the unseen forces that bring people together or pull them apart, the ways in which all of us are interconnected. I feel so grateful for what Kieslowski gave us, what he created before his early death, and I think that's all we can do--try to give what we have while we are here. I myself am connected to him. Film is a powerful vehicle for connection. He couldn't know that I would lose my father and start watching his films as a way to cope with grief. How could he predict the effect Thee Colors: Blue would have on me? It is the story of a woman who loses her husband and child in an automobile accident. So many images stay with me: Julie (played by Juliette Binoche) in a crystal blue swimming pool, a sugar cube dissolving in a cup of coffee, Julie's lips covered with white powder from the  pills she places in her mouth during a suicide attempt. All of these images are part of me.

Blue represents freedom. How to find freedom in grief? Maybe losing finally frees us of the fear of loss. Yet fear overflows inside me. I cannot find freedom. Julie wants to be free of people. If you have nothing, then you cannot lose anything. Maybe my father's death gave me the freedom to live as I would never have lived otherwise. I am not finding a silver lining or saying it happened for a reason or forgiving the horror of it. Never will I do any of that. I am simply trying to make sense of the facts as they are.

He is gone; it is forever. I was born of that loss. It has altered me, for better and for worse. The worse I am well aware of. I suppose I am searching for the parts of myself that I can bear. The part that still loves writing at midnight. The part that takes pictures of flowers because I believe beauty is worth remembering and honoring. The part that wants to be a grief counselor because I think this pain makes me human and compassionate and open, and maybe I can free someone else, tell them the words they need to hear, show them how to survive.  The part of me that forever belongs to my father and knows that I am here because of him.

He is not someone I loved. Love is not in the past tense. I love him still. I will love him until the day I die. And there will be more days and weeks when the memory of him annihilates and almost destroys me, when I cannot see past the grief, but that is part of me too, and I accept that part. I do not deny it or disparage it or shame myself for feeling devastated. My feelings matter. They do not need to be hidden or changed. They need to be listened to and understood. I am wounded. I am shattered. I am lost. But I am surviving, I am enduring.