My Dad, Eight Years Later
Almost eight years later, early Saturday morning, I sit for meditation. The house is quiet and still. I soak in a little time for solitude and silence before my girls are up and the house is stirring with movement and sounds. I decide to practice simple shamatha meditation, anchoring onto the breath and returning whenever I’ve drifted.
Yesterday was the anniversary of my Dad’s passing. The day almost slipped by all of us until my mom called me Friday afternoon to remind me. Gosh, eight years have passed. Time really moves so quickly. I felt a little bad for not having remembered myself, but perhaps its a sign of understanding life and death come hand in hand.
About half way into my meditation, thoughts of my Dad naturally begin to flow in. I start imagining him through my school days and then slowly into the days he was ill with cancer. I imagine him the day and the hours before he was passing. My relationship with my Dad had been complex, but even in the complexity there is immense gratitude for him. The image of him lying on the bed, barely conscious, feels so real. I instinctively begin offering phrases of compassion toward him. For a moment, my thinking mind almost interrupts saying “This doesn’t make sense, he has already passed away”. However, my heart seems to want to continue. I offer him my words, “I care about your pain. May you be free from the roots of suffering”. I see him and repeat this over and over again. And slowly it is as if something is cracking open. The feeling is so visceral as I feel the warmth in my heart and the shakiness arising. It is literally and figuratively the quivering of my heart for his pain and suffering. I just continue offering him my phrases.
When he passed away, I am not sure how much I allowed myself to really feel his passing. I had an eighteen month old and almost due to deliver my second. I wanted to be strong for my mom and stable for my kid(s). I remember crying, but I am not sure how much I felt the crying. I think my body cried for him, but my heart remained very protected.
Today I haven’t cried (yet), but I have felt deeply. Somehow eight years later, it feels safer to feel into the passing of his life and the suffering that he carried and hopefully was freed from. I do remember the only thing my Dad consciously said in the last two days of his life. It was when he opened his eyes, looked up at my Mom and said, “Manju, don’t worry, I am okay”. And just like that he closed his eyes and several hours later he passed away.
I imagine there is still a lot to feel into, but I am in no rush. It can be so scary to open and to really feel, but I trust that all things come when the time is right.
In closing, I’ll share this beautiful quote by Thich Nhat Hanh.
“This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, No Death, No Fear