A few days ago, I forced myself to do something which I rather dislike. Not because the task was unpleasant, which it was in the sense that all things associated with death are, but because I was terrified of that look I would see in my father’s eyes. That look of mortality, of fleeting time, of disbelief, of instant heartache. For a friend of my dad’s had passed away quite unexpectedly and being the good daughter that I am, I bought a bottle of whiskey and drove over the mountain pass to commemorate at his house.
Once I arrived there however, my solidarity faltered as I remembered that summer day not too many years ago, when I had spontaneously driven over that same mountain pass and up my Dad’s gravel driveway and into a memory of sadness and shame. As I pulled up to a stop & jumped careless out of my car as only a young girl can do, my Dad lurched forward out of his office and onto the porch in a way which immediately told me something was wrong. At first I thought he was in the throws of a heart attack but as he choked out the words as I rushed towards him, I understood that it was my Uncle Brian he was talking about, not himself. And in that moment I experienced my first sense of shame, because I was grateful it wasn’t him. Whether it was right or wrong, that emotion was the first thing I remember about my Uncle Brian’s death. And as a world wholly new and painfully sharp sprang up around us that day, that day of sudden and young death, my first thoughts were still, at least it wasn’t you Dad. Thank God it wasn’t you.
And that is why it took me a few hours after arriving to finally go see him and to bring him his bottle of whiskey to be washed down with my few paltry words of condolences. I knew that same look was coming and I also knew that I once again would feel that guilty sense of gratitude that it wasn’t him. For the thought of a world without my Dad breaks my heart, it’s something that I fear I simply could not bear. So when I look my Father in the eyes, his grief makes me sad, sad because his friend was a good man and the world is a little less bright without him, sad because his own mortality is something I cannot stop. Yet he is still here, we still have time, and for that, yes I am unshamefully grateful.