It’s been 2 years since my father passed away. With my wife’s affair, some 10 months after he passed—and the subsequent explosion of my life—I was somewhat robbed of the opportunity to properly mourn. This meant random fits of unprocessed, unhinged emotions rearing their heads whenever they so choose. At the grocery store. While hanging out with friends or family. Pockets of intense anxiety, of complex PTSD, of intense sadness. Slipping away to a public restroom to compose myself. Stabbing emotional pain when thoughts of all that’d been lost burst forward: Not just my father, but an entire branch of family now locked away due to the loss of his connective tissue that brought us all together. Not just my ex wife, but her entire family, people I loved, all locked away. I can’t help but feel the loss when I sit at tables during birthdays and holidays, tables for a few vs. tables filled with kids and grandkids, parents and grandparents and cousins and in-laws. No more father’s day get togethers, no more Christmas Eve at his place, no more weekly lunches with him and my brother, no more texting him and receiving his emoji-strewn responses that showed the often hidden softer side. So much love in those silly texts, all ending in his final, gut-wrenching text as I asked how he was doing during his final moments. A single word, a sentence forever cut short.


When he died, my step-mother contacted me around 10:30 am after I’d arrived at my workspace. He’d been in the hospital for a few days due to a fall that resulted in a broken hip. The surgery was a success, and my father was recovering. By all accounts, he seemed in the clear. The night before this call however, his heart had failed, and, due to Covid restrictions, he died with only a nurse by his side, a kind, anonymous soul, someone who made sure another human was by this man’s side as he passed. I’ll forever be thankful to that person.

Though my father  had covid at the time, he did not die from it (not directly anyway) but they had moved him to the Covid ward. Being during the thick of the pandemic (October 2020) this meant absolutely no outside visitors, not even from his wife. The night before, I dreamt lucidly of finding myself at the base of the hospital building, having vaguely located his window some 4-5 floors up. Desperate to see my father, I brainstormed on how I might sneak in, but the hospital was completely locked down. And so, ultimately, I resolved myself to climb, to lunge and claw at the brick building. I would reach him, and I would save him, or say some final words of professed love, to say goodbye. My fingernails snapped, and my knuckles bled as I repeatedly fell to the ground. Surrounded by rusted cars and a trash-strewn parking lot, I looked up to that open window and sobbed. I knew he was leaving, and I could only say goodbye to the ether, hoping that somehow my words would find their way up to him.

I answered the call from my step-mother knowing that it couldn’t be good news, but nothing prepared me for her shaky voice as she informed me of his passing earlier that morning. She then asked me to perform one of the hardest tasks I’d ever faced: “If you could help me,” she asked, “and let your brother and sister know…”. I confirmed, told her I loved her, and made my way to the restroom to take some deep breathes. Breathing deeply and speaking to myself under my breath, (you’re okay, it’s okay. you’ll be okay), I thought how I just had to stay strong until I got to my car. Somehow I was able to pack up my things and make my way to the parking lot without losing my composure. I got into my car and steeled myself for what had to happen next. Deep breathes, keep it together, stay strong just a bit longer. I had to call my brother and sister, and I didn’t want to further traumatize them with my own distress. I would have to deliver the hardest news they’d ever heard, would permanently lodge a knife into their very beings, a wound that would never fully heal. I knew too that I’d carry this burden—the fact that I was the wielder of the knife—alongside my many accumulating losses, my goddamned memory, so adept at remembering these moments for eternity. Another one for the books of my mind.

I tried to call my sister first, since I knew that would be the hardest. I couldn’t get through, and she texted me asking if it was bad news. I said I should tell her over the phone, but (and this is a blessing in hindsight) she insisted that I tell her via text. “He’s gone isn’t he?” she texted. I confirmed, telling her how sorry I was. So sorry. After a moment, she told me she was leaving work.

I then called my brother, who, after picking up, had a few connectivity issues. I waited in the grueling silence as he told me “Oops, sorry, just a sec…” in a casual, friendly tone reserved for any type of morning call. In a calm voice, I told him that dad had passed away. He took the news solemnly but calmly, and both of us were able to maintain our composure and get through the call. We had a nice talk, and my brother remained his typically stoic, but soothing self, his tone and shared pain a salve to my more emotional demeanor. “Poor dad.” my bother said with finality. We talked about quite a few things during that call, but I’ll always remember those two words best, the silence that followed as my brother took a moment. Poor dad.

We got off the phone and at this point I’d arrived home. I’d parked in my garage, turned the car off, and put my face in my hands. I was still in shock, and the tears, though there, were stunted by my disbelief. Surely this was a dream. Surely I was going to wake up, realizing this was just a continuation of the dream I’d had the night before. He had recovered from the surgery. He was supposed to be okay.

Later that afternoon I sat on my back patio and stared at the trees above. I had no trees in my yard, the skies above being completely clear of foliage, but there was a forest behind my house just up a small hill. The trees there, ancient and tall, were filled with leaves having earnestly begun their shift to autumn colors. A blend of ochre, burnt oranges and reds ebbed and flowed in tandem, as if from a single life source, as if breathing through lungs that existed deep within the forest. Large gusts pushing outward, then back in, susurrating with a crisp hum. The breathing earth, forever seeking balance and equilibrium, prepared itself for a cold winter.

Though the trees were quite far from where I sat, a large gust of wind, an exhalation, sent a bevy of leaves into the air directly overhead, and, from what felt like a mile above, they cascading upon me. Spinning leaves—a plethora of burned colors, a gift from the forest’s lungs—touching down on my shoulders and arms and cheeks, like outreached fingers offering a sympathetic embrace. As if saying: You are part of me, of nature’s cruel, cutting beauty, of life’s nonsensical, brutal rules. You are my child—frail, scared—yet engrained. Part of me…and I’m so sorry.

I closed my eyes as the leaves fell upon me, and the tears finally came. A bit later, looking deep into the forest, I thought about seeing my father there, walking through the brush as he’d loved to do in life. Trekking off the path and into the thicket. Exploring, plucking mushrooms, chewing on mint. I thought maybe I’d see his smiling face. A nod. And with our eyes meeting, he’d tell me something profound, about how he was okay, how he was happy to go. I’d watch as, turning with a final, casual wave, he’d fade into the forest, perhaps the only place he’d found true peace. Not heaven exactly, but, perhaps, a haven, a refuge to finally escape from his earthly struggles. To get some rest, to laugh and take it all in, once again through childlike eyes, now clear from the fogs of a hard life. If that was the case, then this burden I carry in his place, this pain that never dies, this truth that changed me on a molecular level, would perhaps feel worth it.

I miss you dad.

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