"Once the formalities die off, we are left with time. The world gets quiet and we are left with that void in our chest we can no longer fill with photos, family members, cards, flowers, or cake."
I find the timeline of events after death to be very poetic and just. The traditions we have followed with regard to saying goodbye to a loved one seem to work in perfect harmony with what our bodies might need. Those first few days are filled with activity, remembrances, and so many people. The outpouring of support could hardly leave a widow or child lonely at a time when they have a great void beginning to grow in their chest. The schedules of events, planning a funeral, writing an obituary, making travel plans...they all give our minds an outlet so the pain doesn't have time to set in so quickly. Yet with all this going on, I still felt like I had enough moments of stillness to reflect and listen to my body.
I'm not a church-goer. I have a spiritual nature that I keep very close to my heart, accepting God in a simple, natural way. I follow ethics rooted in the teachings of Yoga, Buddhism, and Jesus, and I do not fear death or the unknown aspects of life after. My family has deep ties to the Catholic church and I found much of the planning of the funeral and the formalities surrounding it to be overwhelming and exhausting. From the initial shock when my mom called to tell me of dad's death where I couldn't quite be sad because I was in too much disbelief, and the sobbing that happened halfway through that call, to the welling up of tears driving for 3 hours with nothing but my thoughts, and those first couple of mornings when I wondered how long it would take until I woke up one morning not in tears...these were the obvious signs of grief and bodily reactions that we expect when we lose someone we love so much. I didn't expect the stress and tension of being immersed in someone else's church experience so deeply to affect me the way it did...in my shoulders, hips, and head. I needed time to relax my thoughts, be still, and think about my dad, without the constant conversations of who's plan this was or in what direction he was looking at us from. I needed my "church", I needed yoga. There I sat in poses that opened up my energies allowing them to exit my body, along with tears, and stress. I pictured my dad next to me in a pigeon pose, with both legs, limber, asking me if he was doing it right. That brought a huge smile to my face, as I lay there deep in my pose, my dad beside me, quiet and whole. The body speaks through grief.
Once the formalities die off, we are left with time. The world gets quiet and we are left with that void in our chest we can no longer fill with photos, family members, cards, flowers, or cake. The day after we returned home from mom's, I didn't want to get out of my pajamas (aka; llama suit). I have to admit, my dad's passing was exceptional timing for so many reasons, but how could he have predicted a perfectly timed snowday? Waking up to many inches on the ground, the kids sleeping in, and nothing else to do but sit, think, nap, and reflect on what we had just been through and how everything had changed. I couldn't explain my need to do nothing that day, I just had no agenda, actual or in my head, and that is incredibly rare for me. I was content just to exist in that moment, accept that I was feeling fine, tired and aching, but otherwise I was fine. The body speaks through grief.
I was quite surprised how easy it was for me to get back to family, farm, and life after losing my dad. People would ask me how I was and I was OK. I didn't cry when they hugged me or told me how sorry they were, or when I received a card reminding me how long it's going to take, and that they were there for me every step of the path. Sometimes I wondered if it was wrong to just be ok with carrying on when such a huge part of my life was gone, forever. And there it was, waiting for me. Just a week ago I went through a few really difficult days. Weeping out of nowhere, wondering if I was even going to be able to hold my composure to teach classes. Where did that come from? I realized I had officially gone the longest I could remember without talking to my dad, a couple of weeks. The last time I could remember not talking to him for that long was when I backpacked through Europe in 1998 and we didn't talk until about day 20. Those were the days before cell phones and an international calling card was a precious commodity. These days, I talk to my parents at least once a week. Sometimes just mom, but our conversations usually revolved around dad, how he was, where he was, did he get my message? How does one go about pulling themselves together 10 minutes from walking into a yoga class after crying the whole half hour drive there? About 5 miles outside of town I looked down at my gas gauge and realized I had been so preoccupied with my thoughts I didn't notice I was out of gas. Normally, I might panic a little, but this time I laughed. I just laughed the rest of the way there. It was a beautiful little explosion of emotion and exactly what I needed to pull me through that moment, through class, and a reminder that we have to take grief one moment at a time, allowing our body to guide us through. The body speaks through grief.
I'm taking this one day at a time. I have no regrets about my relationship with my dad, the time we spent together, the things we said or didn't say. I know in my heart one more day is not an option, and it would never be enough. I know I will see him again, always, everywhere. When I see that first little bird with the funny color in spring, I'll see him. When a bright, cheerful flower pops up in the middle of a grassy field with no other to be found, I'll see him. On the breeze that softly graces my shoulder on the stillest of summer days, I'll feel him, reminding me it's OK to be OK, and it's OK not to be, too. Through my grief, he will speak to me, and I'll speak to him.