I wish you were still here. I know it’s been a long time (30 years in fact) but I still miss you almost every day. As I do most years, I took a flower to the beach and thought of you. This year I drew a heart and 80 and placed the hibiscus in the middle. It is after all your 80th Birthday today. It’s such a shame you couldn’t have shared the spectacular sunrise with me. It’s even more of a disappointment that you didn’t get to wake to any of the sunrises of the last 30 years. Today’s was particularly beautiful, as if nature had painted me a perfect picture to remind me that you’re still here in some way.
I guess it’s okay that you may sometimes return as a sunrise, rainbow, an owl, a song that skips (like an old record) or just a wisp of my hair (I’m sure you’re touching me). But let’s face it I’d rather you were physically here. I miss your arms around me and that smell of you that is only you, male musky and a hint of cigarettes. I wonder what you’d be like at 80 years old. A handsome old man with grey-blue eyes shining through an aging face, filled with laughter lines. I’d like to think that the laughter could have returned to you.
You would have been a wonderful grandfather and great-grandfather. You denied yourself that privilege but you also denied the kids. Just imagine the richness of them having you in their lives. You would have been the grandfather with lots of patience and words that may have been few, but always wise and kind. The hugs you would have received from them all would have cheered you right through old age. I know that didn’t happen. I wish it had of.
I’m now three years older than when you left. Imagine me older than you. It’s weird. It’s also odd to be thinking that you’ve been gone for so long, but sometimes you still feel so vivid to me. This morning at the beach I pictured your smile exactly how it was. When I got home I pulled the photo from my wallet and scanned it for this post. You’re squinting a little but you look happy and I like that. I just imagine you happy. So Happy 80th Birthday Dad. I love you so much.
I’m usually a happy person, but when it comes to grief I find it hard to surface from that utter disbelief of losing someone special. I’m feeling that now and it hurts but there are people hurting more than me.
I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’d like to hide my feelings sometimes, like a turtle hiding it’s head in its shell. It’s rather useless, as the signs are there to see in my face, in my watery eyes and my withered smile. I cry easily but not through pity or irrelevant things. I just have compassion and empathy. I am moved by the feelings of others.
I know most of us are like that. We cry for a television character, though we don’t know them, we believe their story. We cry reading sad books. We cry when the news is too upsetting. We even cry when we are happy. But the crying we shed in grief is to help us survive the harsh reality, that over our lifetime we are bound to lose someone we love. Crying helps me but it can also be exhausting. Some people can’t even cry at all when they are grieving. Then something triggers in them a need to cry, be it alone, or with someone’s comfort. Eventually most of us cry.
When do you know it’s time to stop – and how can you?
I don’t pretend to understand grief. I’ve had my own grief over my father’s death a long time ago and sometimes it can feel as raw as the day it happened. Each day gets better but some memories can bring that grief back to the surface when you least expect it – events, birthdays, a song, even a smell. I guess it’s about always missing them and regretting that they didn’t get to share the rest of your life. You have to try to let go of that. Their life was what it was and it mattered. You can’t think about the ‘what ifs’ because that just keeps the grief with you too long. It’s difficult but concentrate on the good time and the impact they had in your life. Be grateful for whatever time there was.
Dogs and family and friends
I recently grieved the loss of my dog, Boss, and that is still with me, especially when I see other dogs. I know it’s not the same as a child and I don’t even want to think about that. But I have to, especially on Friday. Friday I will attend a funeral. One I never expected to attend.
Nearly three decades ago I lost two lovely friends to two different accidents, both were only in their twenties. I think about them both on and off, but this last few days I can’t get their images out of my thoughts. Why has this grief resurfaced?
My own son just lost one of his best mates, aged 24 to a drowning accident. This wonderful human being, and bright light in my son’s life, was experiencing a trip of a lifetime. Who would ever think he’d never make it home? I don’t know how to comfort my son other than to hold him. I don’t know what to say to make it better. There really aren’t words. To tell him I understand is futile.
He’ll endure his own grief in his own way. As for the parents of his friend, I can’t fathom how they feel. My heart aches for them and I am also grieving their son. He often stayed over and we got to know a gentle, happy young man who deserved a long life. It will be strange to never see him walk in our door again with a grin, or leave empty contact lense cases in my bathroom after he’d got ready to a night out with his mates. I wish I’d left them there for a bit longer now.
I want to say to my son our souls still live. I hope they do. I want to say many things but sometimes in grief silence can be reassuring too. I want to hug him tight and give him strength to get through this passage of life, that most of us have to take at some time, but nobody wants to.
I found this quote about souls and flowers. I have created a picture quote with it, using a photo I took of an orchid a dear friend gave me when Boss passed away.
Perhaps if we look to the beauty of nature we can have some solace in our grief. I hope so.
RIP Justin Cullen. May your bright smile now be a shining star above us making us smile back each time we see you.