Grieving: no one has answers.
It was yesterday. I had my pajamas on, husband too (with the socks holding the bottom of the pants), and the dog was between us on the couch. Dishes washed in the kitchen, roommates in their rooms, and the house in a calm atmosphere. Another simple night in Maine, waiting for the Spring to fully arrive and change gardens, the temperature, and our mood.
I was tired. More tired than normal. Physically tired, but more tired of trying to control things and everything not happening the way I wanted it to. It was a different kind of tiredness. A big part from the training during the week to be a letter carrier but a humongous part from the last month trying to make things happen in a routine that was already upside down. Add to that the recurring feeling of deeply missing my dad and a Pandemic.
I still don´t know how I survived the burst of emotions. It was a mix of frustration with a feeling of failure and weakness. I felt small and angry and sad. I also understood I was acting like a spoiled girl since I have everything to be comfortable (a roof, money in the bank to pay bills, a job, a family, all in good health). And I was mad at God or Goddess, as I like to call this force that we can´t explain. I kept thinking: why I can´t have my house, why I can´t have the job I want, and why is all this not happening right now, when I want it to?
Did you picture the little girl with a bow in her hair stomping her feet on the ground and screaming:” I want it, I want it, I want it”? Yep, that was me.
We visited/looked at over 20 houses. Placed offers on 3 of them — all rejected. I went to work in a not-so-nice place. Not because of the people, but because of the nature of the activity: insurance subrogation. Nothing was coming together. And on top of that, I was missing my dad.
He had passed away almost a year previously.
When he had the heart attack, I went to Brazil to help my mom and siblings to take care of him. He was recovering, but I found him experiencing complications, and within days, going into a vegetative state that could keep him there forever, without being there. Those 10 days were like a violent catharsis for me. No one was prepared for his passing. He was healthy, active, lucid. Suddenly, a heart attack, then the surgery, then hemorrhagic complications, then a stroke. I was there for the last part. He couldn’t talk to me because of the tubes and sedatives. But I decided I was going to talk to him, the same way he always motivated me when was waking my sister and me up for school. Whispering in my ear he would say:
- Let´s go, my dear. It is time. There is a lot to do. You need to shine.
Seeing him in that hospital bed was not fun. I decided I would motivate him to get out of that situation. He believed and so did I that we can be our own cure if we can use all of our power. Not in a magical crazy way. We believe that our emotions play a huge role in our wellbeing and I would help him to not give up.
Well, once again, I forgot I can´t control everything. In fact, we control nothing, nothing. Everything is an illusion. And in those days, I needed to learn my lesson fast: he should go. It was his time. The last thing I wanted was to keep him in that bed, like a decorative plant, tied to machines. He was not made for that. So, when I was about to come back home, I asked him to just go. He waited for me to leave, and left too. Two days after, just to spare me from all the rituals of funerals. Neither of us liked rituals at all, and he did me that favor. I am super thankful to him.
After that, the journey was hard. Unknown. Everybody goes through grief in different ways and deals with emotions the way they have learned to, almost always trying to survive/overcome them.
And then I found myself, for the first time in my life, trying to deal with it. With no expertise at all. When my grandparents died, it was as if the time had come. They had been sick for years and their death was more of a blessing than a surprise. I wanted them to rest and not suffer more.
But, with my father, everything was so quick, and he was so well that maybe this is why it has been so difficult for me. Or maybe, because, like the spoiled girl, I didn´t want that to happen now. As if I could control everything…
So, I cried many times. In different situations. Memory is tricky, don´t you think? Anything can trigger the weirdest emotion.
Slowly, I was feeling better. Then, my husband came to me with a portrait of my father he had painted earlier, asking for permission to exhibit it. It had been months. I was fine. But suddenly I fell to pieces as if everything had just come back again. Of course, he felt bad, but I explained that maybe I just needed to embrace that and go through it. I was sure I needed to treat that normally. It would come and go.
Later, on New Year´s Eve, I felt it again. I felt I was leaving my father in that year and moving on. A weird feeling that I was betraying him, leaving him behind. Some people in my family were dreaming about him, some of them felt him with them. I was not exactly expecting some supernatural experience but, at the same time, I was asking myself why I was not seeing, feeling the same as the others.
Life went on and I decided to take singing classes. My granddaughter had just been born and, since I would be far from her, I thought that maybe singing to her would make her and I be closer. Then I remembered that my father was the musical guy in our home. I remember we had a “band”, and my brother used to play spoons, my father would play the organ and my sister and I singing and on the guitar and on an improvised drum with plastic pots and pans.
One day, I asked my singing teacher if we could practice the “Con te Partiró” song. A beautiful Italian song by Andrea Bocelli that was very much cherished by me, firstly because of our Italian roots, secondly because it is a wonderful song, and thirdly because that was the song that was playing in my Pandora list of Italians songs when the doctor came to tell us father didn’t have much chance of surviving. Well, the meaning of the title of this song is: I will leave with you.
At the end of the class, I went to talk to the teacher, he said he already had worked on that song and could follow me with the guitar. He said we could set up some private classes. I said thanks, that I would find some time. He asked then:
- Can you say all the words in Italian? Why this song?
I started to explain but couldn´t finish because I started to cry right in front of him.
- Well, it seems I need to sing this when I can do it without crying, don´t you think?, I said.
As my birthday drew closer this year, I started to feel worse. Last year, on this very date I was at his bed and now I could relive everything again. I got sad, feeling weird, like some traumatic disorder. It was the anniversary of all that marathon of visiting and talking to him in that ICU. I couldn’t help it. Everything was coming back again and I feel that, like a wild horse, this grieving needed to be tamed. At the right time. So, I hope next year is going to be easier. But I am not going to fool myself thinking it is over. Because, until yesterday, I was fine. No sad memories.
We were in our pajamas, the dog between us on the couch and we decided to watch an episode of The Crown. Normal, right? Until some subtle track started to catch my attention. It was a male choir humming really softly. And then it was gone. Then again: huuuummmm. Gone. The tone was familiar, but I knew was not something I was familiar with. It was some kind of chant in the tone of another song, this, yes, very familiar. I couldn’t sing along; it was too low for my voice. I couldn´t repeat what was in my brain, but I remembered the song. I tried to explain to husband and of course, I was not good enough.
I got super frustrated since I was not able to find the song. Shazam wouldn´t work because the song in the episode was not the same song. It just reminded me of that other one. And then it happened again. While my brain was frantically trying to retrieve that memory, at the same time that I was hearing that song, and trying to watch the episode, my father came to my mind again. Because, in a situation like this one, if he was here, I would call him. I would hum the song on the phone and he would help me identify it. But he was not here. Then I went to google, and, for an hour, I tried different ways to search: “male choir famous songs”, “male war songs”, “Viking war Celtic male choir songs”, “male chant”, “famous choir male voices”, “medieval choir”, and… nothing.
I went to bed very frustrated. And, this morning, I started again. I went to Spotify and put on the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Narnia… Nothing. So, I decided to let it go. I decided I would do my things in the computer and just let any male choir list from Spotify playing in the background. Maybe it would be played. And like magic, voilà. The second song was the right one!
I guess that means my father is around when I less search for him? Maybe grieving is not just about getting rid of sadness or the absence of the person, but maybe it is to transform the relationship we have with this person into something not tangible.
Into something magic.
Ah, the song was this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26dlYEzOtog