I had a dream last night, and you were with me. I was in my wedding dress. You took my hand, and we had a dance, something fathers and daughters do every day at weddings all over the world. This dream was the closest I would ever get to realizing that feeling. Having one last chance to dance with the man who sheltered me and protected me my entire life up to that point. It felt so real that when I finally woke up, I expected to be at home. As I laid there still in the groggy divide between dreams and the truth, the reality hit me. I was not at home; you were not down the hall, we never danced.
It’s been almost ten years, and in that almost decade a lot of life has been lived. Sometimes reluctantly, other times, wholeheartedly running fast and absorbing every drop that the moment has to offer like it could be my last. Death has done that to me. Made me more vulnerable to the coming of it. It’s no longer some far-off thing that “unlucky” people have to ponder. It’s a reality, everything dies, and yet we all try to find a way to live.
Life often doesn’t come easy, and I find myself wishing to be one of those “lucky” people. The ones who still have their parents and even grandparents around for all of life’s little moments. That’s when I find myself like Arya Stark listing the things you’ve missed.
The births of my children.
My book, coming to fruition.
Kindergarten graduations and school plays.
The simple everyday messages that never get sent, “Guess what your grandson did today” or “My house or yours for Easter?”
I recite the list over and over in my head as if I could forget as if my heart would ever let me. And I think one day, I might stand before God, recite the list then ask why?
Why did my mother have to die so young?
Why couldn’t you let my grandfather have a few more months so he could meet his great-granddaughter?
Why did I only have my son’s hospital bassinet cart for support when I had to teach my body to walk again?
Why don’t people who have everything that matters, more accepting of it?
And even in asking these questions, I already know the answer, “because life isn’t fair.” It’s a cliché, but it’s true.
In a fair world, my mother would have been at my hospital bed every day as I know she would have done. She would have given me the strength and solace only mothers can provide. She would have been here to spoil her grandchildren like she had looked forward to doing. And on my wedding day, she would have been there standing behind me, her reflection watching me in the mirror as I put on my makeup. My grandfather and I would have danced. The smell of his aftershave, filling my nostrils. The 5 o’clock shadow he regularly wore, scratching my forehead. I wouldn’t have to wonder what might have been because I would have lived it.
It’s in these moments of reverie that I recite the list, and for as much as it comforts me, it angers me. I’ve realized that if I’m “lucky,” one day the list will be so long that I won’t remember the beginning. One day, I’ll have more years without you then I had with you. One day, I’ll stop asking why. One day, I’ll realize that “lucky,” is relative.
In the meantime, I continue to live as I have this past almost decade. Oscillating between reluctance to give up the ghost and running wholeheartedly through life like it’s my last day here. Never truly letting all the tears flow. If I did that, I would lose the last part of you I have left, my grief.