On the eve of my 40th birthday, at a moment when I’m at the peak of my life and crossing over to the other side of the hill, I thought I’d know more. I thought I would understand more. I thought there would be cake and party dresses, not face masks and pandemics. I thought I would feel like I arrived, when this whole time and for the rest of time I will still only be becoming.
I don’t know the exact moment he will die. Or how a body breaks down after nine years of a disease that ravaged him, bone by bone. Which system goes first? His remaining kidney? Or his heart? Or maybe the lungs? When will he run out of air to breathe? I don’t know what pain does to a body, the kind of pain that comes with a crushed vertebrate and rib. I don’t know how sleep is a natural response to anxiety, how one can quiet their heartbeat enough to go away, to another place, even for a few minutes. After I wake up, I don’t know how long the moment lasts before I remember.
I don’t know how my mom will live with a shattered heart, an open space in it that my dad filled with his stories and laughter and commitment and hustle and generosity and love and only later with pills and treatments and quietness and sleep and pain and loss and loss.
I don’t know what fall will bring and if the ache I feel every autumn with the earth exhaling its breath to head into the darkness of winter, if that ache will be so much greater because he is gone.
I don’t know if I will be able to remember his voice.
I don’t know what happens after he dies, I die, we die.
I don’t know when we can all hug each other again.
I don’t know if I will ever see him again.
I don’t know how to have a funeral without people.
I don’t know what I’ll be doing a year from now on the eve of my 41st birthday
I do know that I have a finite amount of conversations left with my dad.
I do know that my dad really wants to live. That he doesn’t want to miss out on anything. Ever.
I do know that I don’t want him to miss out on anything. Ever.
I do know that it feels like I have a hole in my heart, the appetite of grief eating away at me, as it anticipates more grief. I do know that I feel too much.
I do know that there will be church bells that ring when he dies. 72 bells, the precise number. I do know that I love church bells.
I do know that I like watching wind as it ripples through a grove of trees, and the masses of water in the ocean knocking up against each other. Wind is invisible. Currents in the ocean are invisible. When wind and current become visible is the moment they touch something or someone. I know that grief is like the wind, as is love. It’s out there moving through the universe and has to touch a heart to be seen, heard, held, felt.
I know matter is neither created nor destroyed.
I know gravity holds me to this earth.