My husband suggested my tears were those of an orphan. He knows this landscape of orphan. Yet I sensed this grief was so much deeper.
I had been waiting for it. And when it arrived this past week it was like a tsunami. The waves of it swept me off my feet and took my breath away.
Perhaps the orphan grief will arrive. But this profound sense of loss has nothing to do with my Dad’s death. Like Mom, he had lived a full and wonderful life and he was ready to go. Ready to be with Mom again. No. This was something else.
After Solstice, I spent several days going through family photos to create a video for the upcoming memorial celebration for Dad. It was when the photos were in place with the background opera track from Andrea Bocelli. Mom and Dad so loved opera. It was when I hit ‘play’ that the first wave descended. I didn’t know that keening, which is an Irish tradition, was so embedded in my DNA. Through streaming tears I watched the video again and again. Watching for the trigger. And I found it.
It wasn’t the early photos. Those brought up wonderful memories of my childhood. It wasn’t the later photos, especially those after Mom died, where the light had gone out of Dad’s eyes. For I had walked that journey with both of them. No, it was the photos of the in-between time. The time when I had stepped away from the family. As with so many, I had distanced myself from a family that was not entirely happy with my life choices. Beginning with leading the anti-war movement in the university community where I grew up and where Dad worked. It was a tense time. And it was a tension that would not be resolved for decades.
And so it was seeing those photos of family times I missed. Times with my Dad and Mom that I missed. Times I will never get back. And I’ve reflected on how different it might have been had we lived in Ireland. Yes, there was desperate poverty and so many fled for other parts of the world. Yet it is also a culture where families, until very recently, stayed together in the same village for generation upon generation. A culture where wealth was measured by the strength of family and community. In this US culture of fierce independence where families are so commonly separated by thousands of miles, we have lost so much.
This is the loss I grieve so deeply.
Judith – firstname.lastname@example.org