Racing into the train terminal, I know time is of the essence, I see them clear as day, they’re holding hands, but appear lost?
After running the space of a tennis court, I greet my very deceased, but surprisingly present Mom and Dad.
The next thing I know I’m standing next to Dad, he’s older than I remember, but just as robust.
I realize I only have a few minutes, he’s holding a long narrow ticket, but I can’t identify the destination.
Where he’s going doesn’t matter because he’s come to give me a message.
I sense it’s important.
He leans in, whispers into my ear, I strain to catch every word.
He has always had this ability to change my narrative, the one I carry around with me, the one I hold up to everything else. This is his talent. As a kid he could turn me in a new direction faster than you can whip cream into butter.
One minute I’m harping about being victimized by the neighborhood bully, when he reminds me of my genius in the kitchen, he might only be hankering for chocolate cookies, but just like that I’m the new celebrity chef.
Swedish fathers are also exceptionally protective, he carried our burdens on his broad shoulders, and nary did I hear a complaint.
I’m beginning to realize this truth does not change because he’s resting in an urn up at the lake house.
It’s time, a gigantic locomotive pulls up to the platform, I reach for him, desperate for a hug before he returns from whence he came.
As I wake, the dream quickly fades, replaced by the stark reality – life is terminal.
This is the reality under which we all live.
I glance at the clock on the nightstand.
It’s 6:05 am.
December 16, 2019.
Nine years to the minute since my Dad passed away.
I lay there trying to remember what he said but deep down I know.
And he wants me to remember who I am.
I lean back in bed, across the room my ghostly reflection wavers on the french doors that frame the courtyard, the light is shifting from inky darkness to a muted gray.
With the dawning of day comes the realization that my Dad has indeed shifted my narrative from the grave.
I remember that flight to Washington (almost a decade ago) as if it were yesterday, it was early morning on the 16th of December, when Nancy called to alert me of Dad’s death.
He died hours before I was to arrive in the Northwest.
With tears streaming down my face the entire flight, I think everyone around me was relieved when the plane landed, and they no longer had to endure the howling woman in seat 22b.
I grab my bag and race to the arrival gate OJ Simpson style.
Frantically searching the cars lining the street for her familiar face.
I finally see her rounding the bend, weaving through the traffic, as if Moses parting the Red Sea.
She pulls up to the curb and jumps out of the car with the engine still running.
I’m in her arms, hysterical, holding tight, and for a moment my world stops spinning.
My sister has always been my anchor especially in times of need.
She’s my rock.
Our hearts are not functioning properly but together breathing seems plausible.
She finally steps away, hands me a tissue, and the keys.
That’s sort of our modus operandi.
She navigates, I drive, and this is how we’ve managed life thus far.
We gathered up our Mama that very same day and brought her home.
It was the trail of tears as we drove 753 miles down Interstate 5 from Chehalis to Campbell.
We stopped for coffee and tissues speaking almost no words.
Mom was shattered, empty, the word bereft is not adequate to describe her state of being.
This is how death scars ones soul because how is it possible to restore a vessel once it is so completely broken?
Bandaids hold it together but as if a stigmata it continues to bleed.
It felt much the same, early morning the 25th of January 2019, racing to Nancy’s house, devastated by the news my beloved brother-in-law had passed away.
It was still dark outside, we sat huddled around the fire, tears flowing, sipping stale coffee, watching the sunrise.
Surreal is one word that comes to mind.
What alarmed me most was the vacantness in her eyes as if being present was too much to bear.
I thought I knew grief but this was different.
This is why he came.
He doesn’t want her navigating this barren space alone, and in his absence, would I be so kind as to provide transport.
I’m here sweet sister, I’m right here.
You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me
I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, if necessary I’ll drive.
By means of all created things
the deceased assails us,
and molds us.
We imagined it as distant and inaccessible,
when in fact we live steeped in its
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
Dedicated to: Mom, Nancy, Susan, Ana Maria, Elaine, Maryanne, Ervie, and Claire.
*Photo credit Gail Severance (thank you)