|Feeling blue, living yellow|
|Written by Danielle Sachs|
|Saturday, 03 December 2011|
A look into the personal struggle of grief and acceptance after a loved one passes away
A lot happens in five minutes, five hours, five days and five years.
Birthdays, births, marriages, graduations, deaths and funerals.
It’s been five years—almost to the day—since my father died. And while it’s true what they tell you “Hey, things get better” the feeling of loss never fully goes away.
But this isn’t about how sad I am. It’s not about how there’s not a single Father’s Day or golf season that goes by where I don’t feel a deep wrenching in my gut.
It’s not about how my girlish fantasies of my father walking me down the aisle at my wedding—which to be fair was only going to be for the presents and cash—have been dashed.
No, this is about memory. This is about the weird things that stick with us and become family lore.
Five stories for five years.
Relax, sit back and don’t feel bad for laughing, grimacing in disgust or crying. Guaranteed I’ve done all three multiple times while writing.
Year one: The immediate aftermath
It’s a blur of red wine, easy sex and tears.
I quickly withdraw and alienate friends. Whoops, there goes my support network.
It’s okay though, because I don’t need them. I have wine and lots of it.
Stumbling around the Trent University Campus in a drunken, medicated haze I make no sense but that’s alright. I’m comfortable alone in my grief.
Then it hits harder than I thought was possible. Waking up with a start at 5 a.m. my pillow is soaked.
It’s hard to catch my breath.
Sitting on the steps by the Otonabee River, I look at the not yet frozen surface.
Chain smoking I sit on the concrete.
For a second—only a second—I stare at the swirling, icy current.
I can hear voices, mine and my father's.
It’s a conversation we had not four months before.
Sitting in the exact same spot but in a different season my cell phone had been pressed to my ear.
“I saw an otter in the river yesterday,” I said.
“What, no beavers,” he asked.
“Not unless you count the streakers,” I said.
It was part of our daily telephone routine. It was one filled with idle, yet comforting chatter. Both of us pausing for the occasional puff of smoke, or so we had each other believe.
I called my mom the next day and started making serious life changes.
Year one continued: I said five stories for five years, I never said a single story from each one.
My family puts the fun in funeral.
Seriously, our funerals are so much fun we actually call them parties.
The outline is simple.
Step one; tell people there will be no immediate service after a death because we want to celebrate their life in their favourite season, not mourn an irreplaceable loss.
Step two; think of a theme.
Step three; invite people and buy inappropriate amounts of booze.
Step four; scatter ashes illegally in a public place.
We opened our backyard to the neighbourhood, friends and obviously family.
There was no distinction between the three.
The flowers were late that year. The prized garden beds of yellow were barely popping through the surface of the soil.
Scotty—one of our neighbours and all around awesome person—snuck over in the early morning hours and planted fake flowers where the theme for the party had been born.
Fun funerals need a theme, see step two.
Time warp: The birth of yellow and all its glory
Sitting in the backyard with the ever present bottle of home brew on the table, my father and I just sat.
In the dead time between work and dinner prep, we tossed playful jabs back and forth ignoring heavier topics.
A lull in conversation had us staring across the backyard.
“I love the yellow flowers this year,” Dad said.
I was silent.
“We need more yellow, make it happen,” he said.
And did we ever add more yellow.
Father’s Day that year we filled planters and pots with the brightest shades of yellow possible.
We waited for Dad to choose where to place them in the garden, he was too weak to plant them himself.
It was the same garden we later spread some of his ashes over.
Year two: The year we may or may not have had Montreal tourists inhale pieces of our life.
My parents met at McGill University.
Mount Royal dwarves the campus and overlooks the important points in my family’s history.
Saint-Lambert, where Mom once had a disastrous family dinner with her future in-laws.
Laval, where my mom was born and raised—and the neighbouring playground where I wanted to spend all of my days.
We, Mom, the two brothers and myself, hiked up Mount Royal with bottles of home brewed red wine and the remainder of the ashes.
Reaching the top of the lookout we scoped out the site.
There weren’t a lot of tourists. It was cold, snowy and the trek upwards had been treacherous and slippery. It was hard to juggle a container full of ashes and a bottle of wine while grasping an ice-cold railing with bare hands.
Mom grabbed the first fistful. A silent moment as she threw it over the railing. And then, the wind picked up and blew the ash into her face.
I stared. She turned and said “your turn.”
I pointed at her face and said “you have something to the side there, Mom.”
She said “It’s snow.”
I said “It’s not melting.”
My turn. I’ve been here before and I’ve revisited every year since.
I grab a handful—I wish there was a more delicate way of putting in—take my moment and let it fly over the side.
Thank you wind for picking the ashes up and tossing them onto the only three tourists taking photos at the lookout that day.
It’s different every year.
Some people are physically there and some aren’t.
Sometimes tourists accidentally inhale my father and sometimes they don’t.
It’s okay though. Everyone that matters is there in one way or another.
Year now: Close to graduation and aching for adventure
You’ve impacted me a lot more than you’ll ever know.
I’m in journalism now and a lot of it is because of you.
I’m (possibly) graduating in 2012 and all I can think about is how you won’t be there.
But I can remember the last time, when you and the brothers made ridiculous faces—Mom didn’t, classy lady—while I walked to my seat in my cap and gown.
This time around, I’ll have Mom, Jason, Paul and our memories.
Maybe I’ll repeat Jason’s high school graduation quote.
“Live life yellow, live life proud.”
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 03 December 2011 )|
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