Remembering One Year Ago

This Friday night, something compelled me to reread the posts I had written a year ago. This same time period last year, dad was already in the hospital fighting for his life while cancer cells eroded whatever healthy cells remained.

When I look back at all I had written back then, it’s remarkable how the constant refrain then was how badly I was looking for a semblance of normalcy amidst our crisis.

On hindsight, it seems rather selfish. But it is the way it is. We take normal for granted until it’s taken away from us and replaced by some big event, crisis or tragedy. Then we realize that the normal means all is right in the world and you wish you could just have it back.

Almost a year since dad passed away, I still cringe with the memories it brings. It temporarily eclipses any other thought from my mind when I remember. And for a brief moment, I find myself transported back to a time I wish I could forget. Not to forget dad, but rather, to forget the emotions that I still vividly recall. There are times when I almost wish he had just died suddenly and quickly. That way, the awful memories of how difficult it was for him in his last few months wouldn’t exist.

A parent’s illness and death changes you irrevocably.

While normal life is eventually restored, there will always be a part of you that exists in a layer of wistfulness. The memories, while dormant most of the time, will continue to resurface every now and then. There will always be a tiny, subtle hint of longing, with the unshakable feeling that something in your life will always feel incomplete. And the memories of his last weeks… God, those memories. Somehow, in some way, you’ll feel like you’ve aged just a little bit. Reached a different plane of adulthood that you don’t cross until you’ve buried family. In some way too, whatever other crisis comes your way in its aftermath, even a year later, will always pale in comparison to those months.
On the up side, I feel him always in my heart, always with me and always by my side. I feel like my recent birthday and the surprising peace I felt on that day was his gift to me. In my loneliest and saddest moments, I call out to him and feel that he sees and understands my pain. I feel reassured that there’s a force, an energy in the universe that’s surrounding me and keeping me company.

I visit his crypt in all important occasions that go by, at least whenever I can. I didn’t understand before the compulsion to visit graves, lay flowers and light candles. Now I understand. Since he isn’t with me anymore, his remains are the only tangible thing left of him I can see, touch and visit. Offering flowers and lighting a candle are the only things left I can still do for him.

Next week marks his first death anniversary. I still miss his scraggly, wrinkly, weather-beaten face as much as I did on the day he died. Someday, I pray my memories of him taking his last breath would be softened and finally overtaken by my memories of him as he was when he was happy and alive, and when all in our world was well.

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