It was Mother’s Day recently, but you were the only person on my mind. It’s true that we haven’t spoken in a few years, or communicated with each other in any which way. And now I fear it’s too late to make amends, because you left us last week in the most unceremonious of ways.
Your passing didn’t come as a shock to me, though it should have. When a police officer comes to your home at 10 in the morning and informs your family that the man of the household has passed away in a freak accident, and that he’s sorry for your loss, some sort of reaction is usually expected. Mostly it’s shock and disbelief, followed by grief and the unavoidable collapse to the ground in a pitiful display of sorrow and sadness. But I experienced none of that. News of your passing was like watching the weather report on Canadian winter – it’s gloomy and cold, but you learn to accept it and not be bothered by how sad and depressed it makes you feel. I felt nothing.
And I continued to feel nothing for the days that followed. Even at your wake, when friends of friends, and children of friends of friends were there to offer their condolences, crying as they hugged my mother and told her to stay strong through all of it. Your youngest daughter cried. Why wouldn’t she, she was 16 when she lost her father. You were my father for 25 years; I should have felt more, I should have experienced more. But my feelings were mute, my heart frozen.
Where was the sadness, the disbelief and the wretchedness that comes with losing one’s father? It was buried under layers of anger and resentment. It was tucked away in a corner of my heart that I couldn’t access, nor did I want to. You had wronged me, and I had not forgiven you for that. You had wronged me my entire life, treated your own flesh and blood as an outcast. You had hurt me and left a scar that no amount of make-up could cover up. You had broken my heart, and never even acknowledged the impact your presence (or lack of?) had had on my life.
It also didn’t help that you and my mother had separated in recent years, and you, by your own choosing, had successfully isolated yourself from the rest of your family, leaving voids in our lives that only a father can fill. How was I supposed to grieve with all these emotions weighing down on me? How could I allow myself to mourn when we had so much unfinished business? Who would answer all those questions that I had been carrying around with me my entire life, hoping, wishing, that one day you would want to be the father that I always wanted, the father that I needed, the father that I (and the rest of your children) deserved?
You died, and the hope that you would one day love us back the way we loved you died with you. It hurt. It hurt to think that you would never come to me later in life, saying that you loved me and that you needed me. It hurt that you never tried to be there for us; for me when I went off to university, for my brother when he started his first job, or for my mother when she got her first big break in her business. You drank, slept, and partied your life through all of that. And now, you won’t be here when your youngest daughter graduates from high school, when your son gets married, or when I have my first child.
George Eliot once said “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” How should I forget you, dad? How can I forget our life together? How can I move on from the hurt and pain and sorrow that I have been living in for so long? How can I forgive you and find peace within myself?
I pulled out a few family albums from yester years to show to your younger daughter. I wanted to show her that you weren’t always the man that you had become in your later years. There was a time when you were kind, when you were there for us, and with us. She wasn’t there though. She came later, when you had changed, when you had tasted power and wanted more of it. Your greed for wealth and control started to consume you, and she never experienced the boundless love you were once capable of giving.
I cried seeing those pictures. I cried, because I realized that the man in the pictures had also died. It’s true that I hadn’t seen him for the better part of my life, but he was alive, somewhere within you. I felt privileged to have known that man, to have grown up in his shadow. Why couldn’t you have been that father to us forever? It was unfair of you to give us that man, and then snatch him away, leaving us wondering if he’d ever come back. I don’t know what’s worse; to have known that man and seen him change, or to never have known him at all.
And now, I have to continue this journey myself. It would have been nice to have you here with me, to comfort me and tell me that you loved me. But it’s ok, I don’t hold that against you anymore. I just want you to know that no matter what our differences were, I never stopped loving you. More and more, as each day goes by, I find myself regretting our last true form of communication together. That e-mail I sent you last year was full of hate. I now wish I could take it all back, to write a different e-mail. But I can’t. I also don’t want to forget you anymore. I want to remember that man from the pictures, holding his wife and kids in a loving embrace in the middle of Disneyland in the summer.
I wish that wherever you are now, you are finally at peace with yourself. I forgive you, and now my healing begins.
“Death is the liberator of him whom freedom cannot release, the physician of him whom medicine cannot cure, and the comforter of him whom time cannot console.”
– Charles Caleb Colton
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