I woke up with a very uneasy feeling on June 14. It was intangible at first in those drowsy moments between sleep and wakeful.
I soon realized it was the grief and disbelief returning. It had been exactly one year since my dad died.
Not that there is anything mysterious, supernatural or spiritual about that. It’s just natural such an anniversary would evoke the black hole of emotion.
The most helpful thing I ever heard about grief is that we never get over it and it never gets any smaller, life just grows much bigger around it.
Something like that, anyway. It seemed much more profound and eloquent in my memory, but I couldn’t find exactly what I had seen before.
It was a pair of diagrams, the first being a circle completely coloured in (and, in fact, bleeding outside the circumference) representing grief in the immediate moment that consumes your entire life and beyond.
The second was that same circle of grief surrounded by a much larger circle representing richness that grows around the grief.
The least helpful thing I ever heard about grief was “you will get over it.”
In 58 years, I have had very little experience with the deaths of people with whom I was very close. I was already 32 years old the first time it happened.
It was my maternal grandfather. The guy who got me my first green and white football and played ‘hut hut’ with me when I was just a toddler. The guy who showed me that ethics were something you do for yourself, not for others. The guy who was always there for every member of our family no matter how big or how dispersed it became.
In the 26 years since then, the moments of grief have become fewer and further between, but when they come, they are as visceral as the long-ago plane ride from Ottawa to Regina, the mournful tone of the pipe organ in the cathedral, the sombre march to the graveside and the piercing wind whipping across the February prairie.
If I had listened to the “you will get over it” crowd, I might be thinking right now that there’s something wrong with me, since I haven’t.
Nor have I gotten over the very few others (knock on wood) since then, my best friend Louis, my grandmother, my Texas pals “Big Al” and Todd, my high school buddy Kevin, my former publisher Neil, my dear, dear friend Marty and, of course, most recently, my dad.
With each passing day, he becomes less the flesh and blood man I knew and more a legendary character of my imagination, but that does not buffer the grief.
In writing this, I am reliving all of the anger and fear and denial and sorrow and disbelief.
It is as real as it was June 14, 2020.
When it comes, all you can really do is embrace it.