My father passed away when I was seven years old. He had recovered from a rare form of Cancer that positioned a grapefruit-sized tumor atop his heart, but was left too weak to fight off the residual Pneumonia. At the time, I was too young to comprehend the reality of what was happening. I concerned myself with picking up the pieces of my family, mending a broken mother’s heart and nestling a naive one-year old sister in my juvenile arms. As I watched the whirlwind of grief around me run its course, I subconsciously concealed my own. For the time being, my outward sense of stability was the glue with which I intended to hold my family together.
Over the years, I found myself growing more in tune with the sad seed I had planted inside of my chest. By no means was I a depressed person, but I possessed a displaced pool of emotion — one that tended to be an ever-untimely burden. Announcing itself at lunches with my new step-family and at friend’s bar and bat mitzvah’s during father-daughter dances was the sentiment of loss. High school graduation found me weaseling back and forth between emotional distraught and academic pride. I felt a gaping void, a culmination of loss, confusion, and distance from a figure that should have, that could have, been there. I grappled with the enigma of my father’s passing, but it seemed there was little consolation to be found.
Truly, I was far from an emotional person. Yet, my inconsistent outbursts would come and go as they pleased, maturing into something more like anxiety when I went to college. For the first time, I was on my own. I had moved across the country to California to embark on my adult life. Building the foundation for this next chapter felt more unsteady than I had presumed. Clearly, there was unfinished business with which I needed to deal.
Newfound nerves became a constant companion. A boulder-like sensation sat heavy on my chest, making it hard for me to breathe as I went about my days. Social interactions were abundant, but oftentimes clouded with a muddied mind. I couldn’t figured out what was going on, but I had a hunch. The union of stored energy from my childhood and the bold step into the unknown waters of college life afar equated to a constant agitation.
Whatever the space I was in, it needed to be released and ceased. So I started asking questions with the expectations to receive answers. I wanted a sign that my father was there with me. I wanted some sort of glimpse into his eyes or tap into his heart. And one night, I received just that.
I had fallen into a deep sleep and entered into a realm that transcended dreams or realities. I found myself in a room surrounded by four white walls. No sound was to be heard, yet the sterile silence somehow appeased me. Fluorescent lights pelted down on myself and the lanky, brunette man who stood in front of me. He too was clothed in white. With pursed lips, he stood in ease. I had never seen this man before, but something inside was telling me that our meeting was deliberate. I was connected to him, but how? With gaping eyes, I looked up at him and dropped to the floor. “Are you my dad?” I asked.
Without lips still taut, he shook his head no. “But, did he send you?” I questioned. He nodded yes. I, rattled, continued to inquire. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I was no longer in control. “Is he with me? Is he proud of me? Is he OK?” Each question was silently received with a nod or shake of the head. He made no peep, but remedied that which had, for so long, circulated in my brain. He was a messenger, a portal through which I could reach my dad.
When I felt our encounter was through, I picked myself up from the floor and I expressed “thank you” more deeply than I ever had before. When I tried to embrace him, he reached his palm forward in rejection as if saying ‘do not thank me; this is my duty’. It was not a cold gesture, but it was a certain one. He then exited just as still as he had come, leaving me within a four-walled chamber of content quietude.
Shortly after, I awoke. The transition from that dimension back into that of my Los Angeles bedroom was far too abrupt. I had to process the intensity of what had just happened. The why’s, how’s, and what’s bombarded my brain, yet all was acquiesced upon a deep digestion. The questions did not matter. The answers did. A lost void had been cradled and closed. A sad seed had flourished in liberation. I knew that that night I had spoken with my father.