Whenever I get an email or message on Facebook about a friend’s father dying, I have a millisecond moment where the air leaves my lungs and I feel that moment all over again, so visceral, so tangible, I can see the color of the sky and feel my husband’s hand on my shoulder in that moment, a moment I now share with another person. Fortunately, it’s immediately followed by a rush of sadness and empathy for my friend, and the knowledge and vision of what time can do, what time does. How I wish I could impart that knowledge as comfort, while knowing it must simply be lived and endured, marched through, sat within, processed. So I just say what wiser people told me, that it does get better, but not in that chirpingly “time heals!” sort of way, just that from the vantage point of another human being with a shared experience, yes, it does, it does get better. You don’t cry as often or as long, and eventually, you don’t cry every day. It’s not magic nor does it disappear – I realized this week I’ve been weepy at odd points in time, and I remembered that this is the time of year when we found out about my father’s cancer. How life itself changed in that springtime evening, as you turn a corner and you don’t even know what direction you’re going, because once again, only time gives you that vision. How four years ago, I still had hope, I railed against the very notion of death, and put every ounce of my determination into seeing my father live. While I would prefer to have him alive, surviving, ranting on the phone with me about politics or giving me advice, I must say, the greatest relief is that he never left my heart, it was my biggest fear that somehow he would fade or pieces would disappear, but I am so grateful that I can see him as vividly as if we’d just visited, I can hear his voice, his laugh, see his smirk.
I looked into the nighttime sky last week, noting that Orion was barely visible, just a glimpse of his belt over the treeline to the West. Disappearing as the seasons change, off to hunt in another hemisphere. I thought of all the nights, in the first winter months after Dad died, after the rest of the world was done grieving him and wanted me to return to my old self, a person I could never reclaim. I would stand outside and weep, remembering all the nights I’d spent staring at the stars in Iowa, these same stars pointed out to me by my dad, how Regina Spektor sings about the stars as ‘just old light’, how the bowl above marks the same trek across the expanse, no matter what our pain or hardships. As Orion slips away, Scorpius claims the summer sky, the scorpion that felled the great hunter, put into the sky for time eternal, and the same battles and journeys begin anew for someone here on earth.