Some have been gone for years; other’s days, months, a few minutes. It has been nearly 10 years since I last saw him. In the early days of loss, my mind was muddled by the sheer weight of all that happened and found it interesting how rather quickly time pays no mind to a passing. The aftermath of it all also somehow escapes into thin air. What remains is but a series of memories that have somehow been imprinted in your heart’s memory chasing you to remember to not forget the good parts. But what lingers is this lasting feeling of without. You get so used to someone’s presence until all that is left is a memory and the wind picks up again and you watch as the branches and leaves dance with each other bringing you back to knowing.
Staying any longer would not lessen the heaviness that clouded our lives these last six months. I wanted to be away from it all. I wanted my dad’s suffering to end, but not in a way that would mean he wouldn’t get to stay. I stepped outside of his room and slowly walked down the hallway with no regard to the sounds around me. All I could hear were the thoughts in my head and in my heart.
I took a right past the nurses’ station, firmly pressed the elevator button and stepped foot into a space that not only could carry me, but also bodies that were injured, healing, or like me, none of the above. I found myself alone.
How odd, I thought, to be in a hospital filled with people, yet in an empty elevator with just me and my thoughts. For once, there was too much space. The doors slid open and I found myself wandering around the first floor. I decided to head toward the bathroom as if to bide more time from leaving him. I didn’t want to leave. I reached for the handle and could feel its heaviness as I pulled to place myself into the common area of the bathroom.
Taking a few steps toward the sink, I looked intently upon my reflection. Placing my hands on the countertop, I stood there looking straight into my own eyes thinking this could be the last time. I didn’t want to believe what I knew deep down to be true. I watched through the mirror as tears began to fill my eyes, blurring my vision.
As my eyes closed, I could feel the warmth of the tears as they fell down my cheeks and landed somewhere below. He was only a few floors above me, resting or giving up, I’m not sure which, but I knew somehow this would be the last time I’d see him alive.
I felt pulled to go back upstairs to sit with him just a little while longer. And maybe, if I could utter any words, tell him everything I could never say out loud that I never got a chance to, but only with the whisper of my beating heart all these years. In those delicate moments between floors I felt he was struggling and surrendering to exist, and I was doing the same. Taking a deep breath, I gathered myself, yet again. I opened the heavy door to exit and enter into the unavoidable unknown.
The emotions that flooded into my life during that time and space were but a whirlwind of life moving in its inevitable directions and far from what I thought I could control.
Grief has a way of plunging us forward while causing much ruminating about the past as if it would bring anything back from before. All words seem to evade grief’s very thorough acts leaving those familiar with it to understand that it can have this power that makes us unrecognizable even to ourselves in some of the heavier instances that it comes into our lives. There are still yet other variations of grief I am finding and holding onto pieces of the past that drive me forward.
I didn’t know much about grief before but knew of the feeling from a young age. I could see it on the faces of the older relatives, something deep within their eyes were stories of loss and struggle that went unshared.
I lost my father in 2011 and it feels like I’ve been saying goodbye ever since. The truth of the matter is, maybe I was saying goodbye long before I really knew, but I think I’ve always known. Unlike those I’ve witnessed when I was younger, I feel I can finally talk about the grief I’ve felt, the grief I’ve held in, and about the courage to let grief go, that it’s safe to love.
It’ll soon be 10 years since I last saw him, with time moving as mystically as it does, the grief doesn’t grasp me as it once did. The weight of life shifts as it should even in our refusal to find refuge in something so familiar as our past. Knowing grief has turned out to be a gift in that it can rip you wide open just enough to see what’s real and true. That in all we do with those we love and in our days we have with one another, we are ultimately slowly saying our goodbyes.
Monica Sakura Urso is a half Sicilian and Japanese artist, actor and writer. Growing up she was always fascinated with people, places, memories and the bonds created with others. Through her various works she delves deeper into understanding the world around her. In 10 Years of Saying Goodbye, Monica touches on the nature of grief, but also something deep down we may already know. She currently lives and works in Austin, Texas.