Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The first year of losing someone is always hard. There is the day-to-day grieving of the person you lost. Sometimes the grief is sharp and sudden, brought on by the unexpected. Other times it is deep and rolling, as it washes over you in waves. There are times when you just cry your heart out, as it is breaking, and then other times there are those sudden, quick tears that spring to your eyes, and you can quickly wipe them away and continue on with your day. Throughout that first year the daily grief is punctuated by certain "milestones". The first holidays without them, the first vacation, family dinner, even trips to a place like a favorite restaurant. Yesterday was one of those milestones for our family- it was Dad's birthday. It would have been his 62nd. Looking at that number, it is hard to believe that he was so "young". In the average span of a human's life, 62 really is young.
All day long there were thoughts of past birthdays, but also sadness at how he should have been here, celebrating with his family. Smiling that famous smile, hugging his grandchildren tight, letting them blow out the candles on his birthday pies (Dad always preferred pies to cake), opening his presents and exclaiming over each new shirt as he held it up against him.
Instead, this year, we gathered around the table and there was a palpable feeling of loss as we felt his absence keenly. Even so, we were able to enjoy each others' company, as well as the delicious food. There was laughter and joking, even with the undercurrent of grief.
After dinner we all went out to the backyard where we planted a small Red Oak tree that had been given to us as a gift in remembrance of Dad. It seemed a fitting thing to do on his birthday, a way to remember him both now and for the future as the tree grows. Mom had a birthday card that she had purchased for him several months ago. As we all gathered around the freshly dug hole, she read the sweet words of love meant for him. She then tucked the card into the side of the hole and we planted the tree. It was surprisingly hard to put that tree into the dirt. Even though it wasn't Dad, the freshly dug hole, the burying...it was all too reminiscent of the burial. It was also painful to realize that we wouldn't be here, doing this, if Dad was still in our midst. Once the little tree was snug in the ground, we all took turns watering it- from the oldest to the very youngest. We then wiped our tears away, and went back inside to enjoy the peach pies Mom had made in Dad's honor.
As I look out to the backyard I can see where the tree is planted. I think Dad would have liked the spot we chose. It is near the hammock, a place where he would like to rest, rocking in the shade, reading the newspaper, enjoying the shady trees and the reservoir.