A Year Later

There is a tradition in the Jewish religion. Of the five phases of mourning that are experienced to honor the death of a loved one, the children are asked to continue mourning for one year.

My year ended on Saturday. It was a year ago Dad died.

The year was characterized by interrupting surprises at unexpected times. I would be moving through a day happy as a clam, oblivious to my unfolding grief. Something would trigger a memory and I would suddenly be changed, transported to another time or transformed into another mood.

The change wasn’t always bad – in fact, I don’t think it ever was. It was sometimes painful, as a wave of longing would come over me to experience old joys with my father. It was sometimes pensive, as I would be found lost in thought replaying scenes from my childhood – daydreaming and oblivious to my current surroundings or circumstances. It was sometimes pleasurable, laughter escaping me as I thought about precious moments shared with a companion with whom I shared certain passions and delights.

I would spend time looking at old pictures: dad as a young father holding his children and a broad smile of pride shaping at the corners of his mouth; dad as a child being held by his own young mother with spit curls spilling out over his broad cheeks; dad as a soldier standing side by side with his buddies; Dad with his young bride on their wedding day and then 50 years later blowing out the candles at the surprise party thrown by their 7 children and 28 grandkids; and my favorite, Dad standing next to me on the tee in the middle of one of the many rounds of golf we played together.

I keep tokens of him kept scattered around the house, knowing that every time I see them I will remember him. There is his watch, tie pin, and cuff links I keep in the jewelry box on the dresser in my bedroom. There is his high school letter sweater, his pitching wedge, and his green repair tool I keep next to the pool table in the basement. There are the coasters with the family crest next to the chair from which I watch my baseball games. There is the pine-wood derby car we made in my first year as a cub-scout on the same shelf in the spare bedroom as the spikes he wore as a catcher on his fast-pitch softball team. All of these served in this last year to call Dad to mind, and elicit a prayer of thanks for the time I had with him.

My year of mourning has now closed. I honor it. I cherish it. It was part of my spiritual journey. I did not shy away from the grief – in fact I welcomed it as a reminder of how important my father was to me.

I am grateful for a life partner who was always aware of and sensitive to my need to grieve. I am grateful for siblings who, through the year, spoke and wrote to each other about what Dad meant to all of us. I am grateful to three children of my own who remind me of the importance of not just having a loving parent, but being one. I am grateful to a Mom who, while carrying her own grief, attended to that of her children. I am grateful to Dad’s only surviving sibling who came for an extended visit and who remains a source of comfort and guidance, even through his grief.

God’s blessings come in many packages. On the first anniversary of my Dad’s death, I find myself grateful to Her for the gift of a loving family. The Jesus I know, love, and worship incarnated as and with family. He grieved, and his own death brought grief to many who loved him. But my faith teaches me that death does not have the final word. It didn’t for me this time, and I pray it does not for those of you who mourn the passing of your loved ones. If, on your journey, grief has come to visit you I pray that love and hope accompany it; and that they are enough to sustain you on your own journeys Into the Mystic.