How my Father’s death changed me.
My father left this world on June 24th 2021. He died peacefully in bed in the comfort of his own home with his loved ones after deciding to go on hospice a few months before, when doctors at the hospital informed him his chemotherapy treatments were no longer working. I was there when he died sleeping on the couch in the living room when suddenly I saw my mother running towards me crying “He’s Gone! He’s Gone” with tissue in her hands. Although we all were prepared for my father’s death, nothing prepared me for the moment it actually happened during those early morning hours.
It felt surreal. Like the out-of-experience you have as an observer watching yourself in your dreams. But, everything was real. My father’s body lay on the bed he breathed his last, eyes open staring into nothingness, with the lone sound of the motor of the oxygen tank breaking the silence. All I could do was walk up to him in the dark, caress his still warm forehead and tell him goodbye. At that moment, I also experienced another death. Overnight, one world died and another was conceived.
The universe where my dad still dwelled among us was replaced by this new reality I had no compass to guide me, no sail to navigate through the rough currents of this new world my dad was no longer in the flesh. I also experienced a psychological death. During a good part of my dad’s progressing illness, my apartment was in chaos. Books and clothes lay everywhere I left them. Dirty dishes piled up in the kitchen. I stopped reading and I just didn’t care. I stopped drawing and writing. When I look back, I think I was depressed. I felt like someone calmly waiting for a bomb to go off I knew I was going to survive the aftermath, but didn’t want to hear it explode.
I don’t know why. But, in the days after my dad died, I walked into my apartment one day and took a good look at the way I was living and didn’t like what I saw. So, I started where I was and begin picking up one thing at a time, mopping and sweeping floors, throwing out trash bags, organizing my books and desk. Cleaning my physical space help me clear the fog in my mind and focus on the tasks at hand instead of focusing on the deep pit of grief I felt in my heart. After I was done, memories flooded back of my father telling us about how much he wanted to see the world and kept putting it off until he became too ill to travel. His words burned in my mind. “You need to go to places and enjoy your life while you still can” he often said; even in the early days of his battle with cancer. His death made me take his advice to heart. I’m planning on taking a train trip to New York from Houston next month and writing about my experiences along the way like writers of the past.
Death of a loved one changes you. Within the darkness and despair, within the burning funeral pyre, a fiery phoenix is reborn from the flames-
Renewed and ready to fly again towards the bright, beaconing smile of the sun, to live again. That Phoenix is me. Light does emerge from darkness. Joy out of his sadness.