My dad’s 61st birthday was a little over a week ago and in the event that you’re just joining the Righteous Revival community (welcome!), he wasn’t here to sing happy birthday to or to blow out any candles. My dad is in that ever so speculated upon, heavily debated place knows as the after life or Heaven or bluntly put, dead.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed the simultaneous shock upon peoples’ faces after I’ve been interrogated about the whereabouts of my parents and my usage of the word, “dead,” escapes my mouth. I don’t use it for the shock value by any means – it’s just what resonates with me more often than “passed away” or “gone home” or any other variation that describes the end of someone’s life.
There are times when I make morbid jokes like the time I shipped my mama’s ashes via FedEx to California from New York and I called my friend, Claudia, to let her know that my mother would be arriving at her doorstep in T minus 4 hours. I sincerely hope you laughed just now or at least chuckled – Claudia thankfully did and even threw in her own addition to the morose quip. It’s how I cope with the otherwise debilitating anger and sadness that can become suffocating if I don’t incorporate at least an ounce of humor into my everyday life which is parentless and has been for the last three and a half years.
I am reminded on a daily basis that I will never celebrate another birthday with either of my parents or mail another Christmas card to either of their addresses. If I have children one day, I will not share in the foretold immense joy of parenthood with either of them– there will never be that shining moment of prideful grandparents that many have the pleasure of basking in. I am constantly reminded of this every waking and, sometimes, sleeping moment of my life and making light of this uncontrollable situation is a necessary means of my emotional survival.
Death has become a familiar part of my thirty years of existence. I often speak openly and freely about my own future departure, utilizing dark humor to decorate the otherwise uncomfortable subject.
“I want “Another one Bites the Dust” to be a part of the soundtrack at my memorial,” I laughingly joke and this is often followed up by an uneven amount of mutual chuckles, I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that gasps, and worried expressions upon the faces of unwarned ears.
Being on the receiving end of these looks is often a cue of how unfair and unusual it is to find oneself cozying up to end of life ideas as if it is somehow natural, as if the fear is nonexistent and I somehow find comfort in death’s certainty.
If my dad and I could have some more time together, I would ask him what he found comfort in, if anything, during his last few days. I would ask him what he feared, not only at the end of his life but during the majority of his life. Fear, security, vulnerability, means of survival – those four things would be the basis for some epic getting-to-know-you conversations. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll be granted that opportunity.
Until then, I’ll be gentler with myself, knowing that fear is inevitable but it can be managed, it can be lived with. And by live, I sincerely mean living, consciously, absolutely. A lesson I am aggressively learning currently is that being vulnerable does not mean being weak. When vulnerability is active, the fears have a way of thriving but that fear can be managed. One of the quickest ways to managing that fear is allowing oneself to be vulnerable, to be human and opening yourself to acknowledging those fears – where they come from, what they mean, for when one is vulnerable, one can be deeply and wholly honest with him or herself.