Sometimes you feel it coming from so far away.
The date looming over you, warning you that it's time to remember. Time to be sad again. Time to feel the emptiness and the loss. To relive all of the most painful moments.
Other times you miss it completely.
It comes and goes without notice or acknowledgment.
Void of meaning or tears or memories.
Just another day.
Was somewhere in between.
I did know it was coming.
The day that my dad died.
I start feeling it around Christmas.
Imagining what it would have been like had I know at Christmas six years ago that he would only ever live six days of 2011. If I had known it was the last time that I had with him for forever.
It's there always.
But in the traveling across international borders and diving back into hours spent with teenagers, it just slipped by this time around.
Sweet messages from friends on Friday night of prayer and support. And honestly, I could not figure out for what...
At least it took a little while for me to put the pieces back together.
And I thought, perhaps then, I would feel it.
In fact, even traditions that I have kept since he passed, I realize yesterday I did not keep.
Wearing the dress that I bought for his funeral. To remember the way I felt that it represented that moment in our history so well. A little gray because we lost him but so much more growth and life to come. Life he would have most certainly wanted us to live.
Watching home videos just to hear his voice. Just to hear him say my name. To hear his laughter.
Drinking grape juice and eating frozen cool whip straight out of the tub.
Not this year.
Yesterday I went about my normal activities.
A baby shower.
An afternoon movie with friends.
Some coffee and work in my house.
I wasn't sad. I didn't cry. I hardly thought about the whole thing to be honest.
I wore the necklace I had made in his memory. His signature preserved. His heartfelt words.
"Love always, Dad."
Dangling beside a tiny brass butterfly.
I ran my finger over it a few times.
A few years back, I think I might have been bothered by this.
I would have wanted so much for the tears to come.
I would have liked to sit in the sadness. Try to find it.
Which sounds strange, but sometimes it's sad that the sadness is gone.
If that makes any sense at all.
And you want to feel sad... to remember before it was normal to not have him here.
Because along the way it fades I suppose. It all starts to seem normal. That he never calls. That you stop accidentally trying to call him or running your finger over his number in your contacts. The details settle into far away places in your mind. Everyday overtakes that one day.
And you keep living.
But every now and again, on days like yesterday, it's nice to go back. To dig up those settled thoughts and memories. Expose them. And to feel whatever you might feel when you do.
I learned a long time ago that grief simply does not work that way.
It cannot be contained or controlled.
It will not comply with dates and appointments.
It will come and go as it pleases.
It will find you wherever and whenever it so desires.
You cannot tell it to show up on January 7 and to leave again in the early morning of the 8th.
It may meet you where you expect it to or more often than not where you least expect it.
And you have to be okay with both.
You have to make space in your life for either.
Every January 7, I will continue to pause. I will wait a little while and see if it is a moment when grief will find me. I have decided to give myself that day if I need it to do the remembering and the crying and the aching that I may indeed find have been building up inside for too long.
But. If on January 7 I pause and find that grief and sadness have not come to visit, I will also allow myself the space to live. I will not punish myself for the lack of tears and sadness, because living on is just as much in honor and memory of my dad.
And if grief decides to pay a visit on a random eve in early August. Then so be it. I will face it there.
I will not live in a state of grief and with sadness lingering over my head just because he is gone. That is not the way to commemorate him at all. He would not want that in any universe. He would want for me laughter and joy and all of my dreams. And so I will keep him alive by preserving and protecting all of those things in my life.
But. I will allow pauses. Deep breaths. Tears.
I will allow grief to find me. Because I am no longer afraid of it.
It's like an old friend just passing through town for lunch every now and again.
It is no longer something I dread but something that refreshes me and that I welcome. That I go out of my way to meet when it arrives.
Because grief makes me feel the deepest things. Look into the deepest parts of myself and my heart.
Grief forces authenticity with self. And I have come to really love that.
So yesterday I did not have an appointment with grief, though I was prepared for a drop in.
Yesterday I lived.
And I found him there again as much as I would have in the sorrow.