The house is large, very large. My mom and I hear each other’s every movement, sometimes each other’s breathing. I never noticed echoes before, but now, dishes echo, books thud, floors sing under footsteps, and closing doors startle the senses.
Such is life, now that my father is gone.
My father has been the hub and focus of the family for nearly sixty years, and now, in his absence, he is still at the center of things, and we reluctantly reposition everything and everyone in the family to accomodate his loss. We still cry, Mom every day.
Everything reminds us of him, of course, and we feel as if he’s still with us, as if he’ll emerge from the bedroom every morning, happy, ready for coffee and newspaper, planning the activities of the day.
We know he’s gone forever, at least his body is gone– Allah alone knows about the rest– but we still feel him, see him just around the corner, hear his voice as he wonders what’s for dinner. His favorite after shave lotion is still sitting on the bathroom sink. Sometimes I smell it, just to bring him back, and then I cry.
Now that spring is here, and the leaves are emerging, I look outside and see him sitting on the patio late in the afternoon, contemplating nature, worrying about the kids, or simply resigning himself to the inevitable. Mom and I brought out the patio furniture two days ago, but I redistributed all of it in a new pattern. Mom didn’t object. The memory of him sitting is his chair is enough; we need not look at the empty chair in its usual position.
It’s as if we’ve been left behind. He is gone, to be sure, and gone where? He is, “…in Heaven with his Lord,” as my mom says, but I still worry about that sort of thing, being educated in the medical model of life, and lacking the depth of spirituality that gives certainty. Death of a loved one, however, is one way of reinforcing a belief in life after death, if not of Heaven itself, because I cannot bear to think he is anywhere else right how.
So we are left behind. We’ll join him someday, and that thought gives us courage if not confidence, acceptance if not the eagerness of anticipation. After all, what does life prepare us for, if not for more life?