Lessons on Loss, Living, and Moving Forward

My father died last April at the age of 87. Even though he was tired, body worn out and ready to go, for me it was too soon. Not only was he my dad, he was my guide; a living, breathing moral compass who taught with compassion, led without judgment of my personhood, and encouraged my dreams. During the last week of his life I had the luxury of caring for him, and saying everything there was to say in order to get closure and mark his passing with an unhurried and loving goodbye. The first weeks and months after his death I mourned, of course, but I felt a connection with him that extended out of the deep respect and generous love between us in life. It seemed I had somehow absorbed his spirit and he traveled with me especially in my work as a facilitator of human development. There were moments in those first few months I felt his essence sparkling about me like a sudden and uplifting light show.

Lately, the sensation evades me. If he’s here watching, I can’t feel him. He is so distant from me now that I’ve even stopped asking the question that initially stuck, “Where’d he go?” Now, the mantra simply is, “He’s gone.” It’s all a very normal part of the mourning process, but to know this doesn’t really make it any easier. If I had to give a motion to grief I’d name it sweeping. It’s a filling up and a clearing out of the overwhelming sense of loss and sadness. Mourning is something else again. It’s fuller and richer than just the thorny presence of grief. Mourning is remembrance and memorialization. Its texture is like crushed velvet; when you run your fingers across it, it’s at once a point of comfort and surprise to the touch. One can linger in mourning, punctuated by the intensity of grief. I welcome mourning. I am not willing to give it up any time soon, despite how little patience our culture has for the process. It helps me to remain connected to my dad and it also carries me along to the next stage of my life. The stage without my father in human form or even in spirit form. Mourning helps me reconcile how I will carry my dad with me in values, mission and actions. Death is a powerful legacy builder. It demands us, if we are self-aware, to enact our guides’ teachings into our daily lives. It becomes the greatest imperative.

I lost my father, but I’m more driven now to carry on his legacy of social justice, a belief in humanity and the healing power of love. And so even though my father is gone, he continues to be my True North; the needle on the compass that never fails to set me in the right direction. I think it’s the greatest last act one can do, to leave such a clear path. And isn’t that just like my dad to continue to give hope, to envision beauty, and to be an inspiration even in death? So even though spring is sad this year, I’m comforted by its certain and reliable rebirth, and am charged with being an instrument of my fellow human beings’ individual and collective transformation. This has been my way of dealing with my father's passing. However, it's different for everyone. Write us and tell us what you've done to transform your loss.

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