The idea that April is the cruelest month no longer works for me. August is now the real winner of that dubious sobriquet. I could point to many factors that have led me to feel this way but the only one that really matters is the death of my father. He died on August 24th at the age of 91. It was a beautiful day here in Seattle. The kind of day that makes you want to play hooky from work. The kind of day that makes you forget your worries. Full of sun and a slight breeze, that day had all the makings of a great vacation postcard. “Beautiful day, wish you were here.”
That morning I found myself on the beach at Golden Gardens with my daughter, Louisa. She and I had planned a little picnic and playtime together. I was looking forward to a cheerful, fun and relaxed day. And as luck or the universe would have it ,my cellphone rang just as a found the perfect parking space. The ensuing conversations were quick and confusing. My Dad had passed out and was on his way to the hospital. A mix of terror and dread washed through me. I struggled to get Lu out of the car, making sure we had all the trappings of a beach picnic – blanket, snacks, bucket, shovel and water bottle.
It was a surreal experience. I kept thinking, “Here I am in this incredibly beautiful place with my sweet daughter and all I can feel is a rising sense of dread.” My hands were shaking as I pushed Lu on the swing with one hand and held the phone with the other. More conversations. More questions. And finally, the answer. From the doctor at the emergency department at the hospital. He is terminal. Not dead yet but his breath is slowing and it is inevitable.
Inevitable. Right there. That’s the moment. When the world stops. When all the rational thoughts collide into chaos and things no longer make sense. When you look outside and see that the swing is still moving back and forth holding the precious weight and warmth of your child. A child, who now looks at you with confusion and concern. And you cannot find the words to explain. Back and forth, slower and slower.
I am a reader. I am an intuitive. I am an artist. And all those identities have enabled me to be open to whatever comes. So that I know that in the middle of heartbreak there may be hope. In the midst of confusion there may be insight. And in the middle of my anguish there came relief. As I held the phone, tears streaming down my face, I looked up and saw a woman that I knew. I hadn’t seen her in more than a year and it was a bit strange to see her out of context. We used to train in Kung Fu together. And now here she was walking with her two beautiful young daughters. I shouted to her and she turned and smiled until she saw my tears. Her expression turned to one of concern. I was able to haltingly explain what was going on and asked if she could push Lu in the swing while I finished my phone calls. Of course she could and within minutes her oldest daughter was gladly pushing a smiling Louisa into the air.
An angel, I thought, she is my angel. Brought here to help in my moment of crisis. How else to explain this meeting? While Lu and I waited for Nicole to arrive at the park, we all sat on the sand and had a snack. It came to light that my friend rarely visited this beach and had just decided on a whim to bring her girls down to the water to play. We marveled at the way people are brought together just when they need each other.
That day is infused with sadness and grief and the sudden shock of loss. As I write about it now my hands still shake a bit. But there is also a pervasive sense of love and care and understanding that has no words. Certainly most from my partner and my friend, but also the universe at large. Some people might say I had a guardian angel or spirit guides around me. I don’t ascribe to a particular belief in either of those but what I do know is that I am loved. I am loved and held in care by something larger and wiser.
My dad was a kind and caring man. He loved music and he was a consumate artist. His hands could design, build, create and fix anything that needed to be fixed. After President Kennedy was shot I asked my Dad if he could fix the president. I was three and believed that he could do anything.
Now that he is gone I still believe that he can do anything. Just in a different dimension. His body may be gone but his spirit continues on and I carry it with me everyday. The summer is over and I, for one am thankful to see the leaves starting to turn. It has been a strange and difficult year. But life goes on and there are new paths to walk. September seems to be kind so far.