Nine years ago today, I was 21 and walking from my 19th century English novel course on the UC Santa Cruz campus. I was crossing the bridge beneath the redwoods and returning an urgent call from my mother. Prepared to hear that a grandparent had passed, I instead hear that my father’s body was found in his car at LAX airport, with bullet wounds to his torso.
Some years May 1st passes through and I barely remember his passing. It’s not until a note from a relative arrives on my phone that the guilt sinks in that I forgot. This past week, though, I’ve felt the angst of time slipping away. I was crabby at a party where there was too much small talk. I got angry that all my travels meant I fell out of practice with writing. I avoided Netflix with much determination — that at least this week my free evenings would be productive.
This time of year reminds me how ephemeral life is. Even though Dad chose to leave this plane of existence, death became a reality 9 years ago. And I feel it perched on my shoulder ever since, always inquiring if this way of life or that person is truly how I want to spend my limited resources. Or, as Rilke puts it: “Ah, the knowledge of impermanence | that haunts our days | is their very fragrance.”
I’ve found myself in desperate collection of kindreds in this existential angst. I know them immediately. There’s an urgency to getting to the real stuff of life. There’s a joy and an appreciation of beauty big and small. And there’s an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the status quo. There’s also a calm grace and acceptance of limitations. These are my people, and I immediately recognize them as home. It’s how my dear friend Kat and I met — huddled away in a corner at a party, talking God, recovery, and different kinds of therapeutic approaches. I know nothing I bring to her will be too woo woo. And it’s such a relief to have those people on speed dial.
Each May 1st, grief shows up in a different way, from a slightly new angle, and it reminds me that it never completely leaves throughout the year. I am a mix of guilt and acceptance about today being more about me than him. In a way I’m grateful for what the time angst has propelled me into choosing. Here’s to what it brings in the future.
And I miss Dad. He was a giant pain in the ass and my biggest cheerleader. For those of you who know the heavy weight in the center of your chest that is grief, I’m right there with you. And I’m here to talk, if you need. No two people grieve the same way. But there’s something unquantifiable and comforting about simply being around others who know grief. So here’s my little note out into the internet abyss. Hi, I get it. You’re not alone.