Nine Years: On Love, Loss, and Nature

Nine years ago today, my father died. It was a bright, cloudless day, all blue sky and blossoming dogwood trees. What struck me the most after I knew he was dead was the unblemished and relentless beauty of the day itself. That such beauty and horror could coexist was one of the first things I learned after his death.

You see, I was sixteen. I was a dreamy teenage girl who loved books and wanted to be a writer. I was a sheltered "daddy's girl." After his death, I was no longer a girl, no longer an innocent child. Death became real, the body ended, what I loved could be lost. This unwanted knowledge changed everything. It shattered me.

Nine years later and his death is as real and raw as ever. His absence consumes my life. I grieve him always. My grief is unstoppable, some would say excessive, but it comes from a deep well of love.

Last night, for the first time since his death, I listened to the music he loved. I cried. I smiled. I felt joined to him through time and space as songs played that I knew he had once listened to at my age and when he was older. All these years I've kept the most beautiful part of him at bay because it hurt too much but the hurt was worth enduring in order to commune with him again, to come closer to him.

As I do every year, I placed flowers on his grave--a grave I haven't visited in many months. His stone is by a dogwood tree; it's a peaceful and luminous spot, but seeing his name brought tears to my eyes. How can he be here? How can life continue without him? But it does. Our heartbreak is one of many. No one survives this life unscathed and yet that is of no comfort when it's your father in the ground, your beloved who is gone, and the future stretches on endlessly without them. Death might be part of life but knowing it's inevitable or natural does not diminish my pain. I arranged the flowers in the vase on his grave and left. I couldn't stay there too long with his body buried beneath my feet.

This evening, I stood in the front yard as the sky foamed pink and the sunlight made the forests glow. The fireflies flickered in the far fields.  I heard the yelling of the neighborhood kids playing together. The air was hot and thick with the scent of honeysuckle. I thought of him. I thought of us. I was astonished by the life around me and how separate but connected I am to all of it. What can I do but live? What can the heart do but love even as it breaks?