In my last post, I mentioned that I am visiting my father soon. His health is lousy.
My dad and I share many traits–our curiosities, skeptical and questioning natures, our reverence for life, our ability to cry in public. He is my best friend. I don’t want to lose him and scarier, I don’t want my child (due later this year) to be without a grandfather. My last few days have been shot through with paroxysms of grief.
Permitting grief is new to me. Historically, my default emotional response to hard emotional situations is go numb until a threat passes (the odd bouts of congenital sobbing notwithstanding).
I thought I was doing pretty great, breaking down as I was, allowing myself to feel. Feeling is good. It’s real.
While this emotional latitude was, in some sense, a breakthrough for me, it was also missing something: my dad is not dead. Sure, he’s going to die eventually–hopefully later than sooner. But so will I, my wife, every one of my friends…even you. I saw there were two foci I could apply to this terminal condition called life:
- Focus on death as loss. Think about the lousy time when we will all be dead, when we will no longer share each other’s company. It’ll probably suck and be really hard.
- Focus on life as opportunity. Sure, we have a finite time in these bodies (fraid’ I’m not a big believer in the Singularity stuff). So what? What are we going to do with the time we do have? As Ben Franklin put it, “Dost thou love life? then do not squander time; for that is the stuff life is made of.”
I realized there was life all around me. My wife is having a child. A good friend of mine got a great job. We got some wonderful news at my work. Yes, all of these triumphs will die, fading into memory and dust, but in the meantime there’s magnificence in witnessing the cycles of life as they occur.
I also realized that I could still call my dad, which I did. There will be a time when I cannot do that, but that time is not now.