Today is an important day.
Today is a significant milestone, not of accomplishment but of loss.
In the past there were times when my family (of origin) would get together and there was a sense of having an itinerary. On the whole, we were people accustomed to creating The Plan for a gathering of people — when you’ve grown up in a family of program directors, meeting runners and conversationalists, there’s a certain pressure to create a Big Moment of sharing and bonding. It was always a special occasion to get four kids, their spouses and their babies all in a room at the same time, there was a kind of pragmatic, making-the-most-of-our-time-together agenda.
That’s a tricky habit to break.
As I’ve anticipated the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing, which is today, it’s been hard to know how to prepare. It seems like I ought to have some big plan, a programmed itinerary of activities and neatly scheduled breaks to feel feelings. One thing I’ve learned this year, though, is that grief rarely behaves the way I expect it to. I’ve been blindsided by things that have brought me to tears in the middle of a store, for example, when I didn’t even know I have an association to something and it almost knocks the wind out of me.
Then again, I’ve gone into certain times braced for tears and heartache, and ended up feeling cold as stone.
There’s almost no use in anticipating or preparing for what to feel. Maybe there was never any use for that strategy.
Honestly, I feel a little queasy about today. I’m trying to listen to my body and honor what it’s telling me, but I also don’t want to be bossed around by my body, because if right now it would tell me the best idea is to crawl into bed and doze away for the day. That doesn’t seem like the way I want to spend today…or at least not all of it.
I’m trying to carve out space to feel what I feel, and mark the day as seems right to my heart. So I’m going to eat an apple fritter and drink coffee this morning, with my dad’s fancy red silk handkerchief in my pocket, the one he wore for special occasions and was probably the only one he owned (I’ll give it back, Mom, don’t worry). I’ll wear my prayer beads around my neck. I’m going to take a walk. I’ll try to have the courage to tell people the significance of this day. I won’t make light of my feelings, but I won’t pressure myself to manufacture them because of the date on the calendar.
Today, I want to be with my family and laugh even if we also cry. Music, Jesus, chocolate, stories, discussion, books, family — all these things should be a part of today.
And if I can find a way, airplanes should be in there too. Dad always loved airplanes and flying.
It can be a good day even if it’s also a hard day.
How do you mark significant days in your life? Have you created rhythms or rituals that work for you? I think it would be helpful to hear about them. not only for me but for any others who might be listening in. Will you share your experience with us?