You never know how you will react to death until death is upon you. I imagined my Father’s death a thousand times after his cancer diagnosis, yet his actual death felt like I was seeing it for the first time. I was naively prepared.
In the aftermath of his death, I was not sure how to grieve. Everyone I saw who had lost someone seemed to be coping fine. They never talked about the death, the hard times, the loss. So when it came for my turn to grieve, I just thought I better do what everyone else is doing. Fake it till you make it.
No one helped me really after my Father died. And I don’t mean that people didn’t try to do things for me, I simply mean that there was no way to help me. There was no way to fix the situation. My Father was dead. Unless you were in the business of miracle resurrections, I was not buying your lemonade.
When my Father died, I felt something inside me crack. Something I could not really explain. Something I could not really understand until after the fact. There are two photos on my desk: one is a picture of my husband (then boyfriend) and me at my bachelor’s graduation; the other picture is of my husband (then boyfriend) and me sitting next to each other in a restaurant. The first photo is before my Father became ill. The first photo reminds me of a happier time. When I felt like I could conquer the world. The latter photo was taken the day before my Father started chemotherapy. We called that meal at the restaurant “The Last Supper” because we were told by doctors that my Father’s taste and appetite would change drastically. If I look at these two photos, my husband has the same dazzling smile as ever (it is truly his best feature). And in the two photos I cannot help but see an altered version of myself. One, before cancer, the other, after. Whether or not other people see this change, is not really the point. Myself, looking and perceiving the pictures sees this difference. A difference that I cannot explain other than to say, “It is there because I see it. It emanates from inside of me.”
I know I became different after my Father died. World weary, full of sorrow… however you want to call it. Almost five years on and the difference is still there. The crack, ever present. It is in the faded smiles I give, in the nightmares that still come to me at night. It is in the way I look at people with their loving families. It is in the way I see my friend’s parents play with their grandchildren. It is in the way I dread weddings, seeing the bride walk down the aisle with her Father at her side. It is in the way that Christmas always feels a little sadder each year. It is in the way I move, in the way I talk, in the way I think, in the way I breath.
For people who knew me after my Father died. I am perhaps no different. With no reference point to compare back to, maybe my melancholy is just something you think is me. And well, it is.
For the people who knew me before and after my Father’s death, I hope you can forgive me and my sadness. The sometimes stranger that I have become to my own happiness. There doesn’t seem to be stitches for this kind of break. So I am not sure how it heals. Or how long it takes. In the meantime, forgive me.