My father died 10 years ago today. Losing a parent is huge. Even though it’s the natural course of events, you’re never fully prepared for the enormity of the event itself and the emptiness you feel inside. The emotions that flood into you consume every waking moment for whatever time it takes to grieve. You go through all the emotions of death reactions—disbelief, profound sadness, depression, more depression, emptiness, fear, anger, confusion, wonder, and finally acceptance.
When I buried my father’s ashes under an oak tree, the tree was only 3 or 4 years old and kind of spindly. Today, his oak tree is tall and mighty and will soon dominate our meadow with its huge branches. I like to think that his ashes have helped “his” tree grow into a gentle giant.
I wrote about my dad in my book, The Field Stones of Umbria. I look back on the chapter about him, “The Oak Tree”, and take comfort in the words I wrote. I’m hoping that these words will bring comfort to all of us who have lost our parents, and especially to a very special childhood friend who just lost her father; he was a second dad to me and such a wonderful man that I can scarcely put words to how I feel about him leaving our lives and this world. Here are some excerpts from my book:
“My father’s and my relationship was probably typical of most father-daughter relationships. It had its ups and downs, laughter and tears, great talks and terrible arguments. We had some estrangement and reuniting, some good heartfelt connections and some polar-opposite philosophies. But above all, he was my dad, I was his daughter, and those words alone imply a special relationship.
“My dad’s greatest strength was his humor. He said it got him through the roughest times of his life, especially during World War II in the South Pacific. He also had wonderful sayings that could wipe away the small tragedies in my life. I got stood up once for a date when I was 17 years old, and I was crushed. My dad held me and let me cry, then he told me all sorts of funny stories about how rotten guys are, and how my heart would be broken time and again. He told me that I had to find something in my life that would never let me down, something that I could always fall back on. It could be anything—painting, crocheting, writing—anything to call my own. He told me that was the only way to get through the rough times, like when people let you down.
“I was feeling so bad about crying, but then he said that the tears were good because “all sunshine makes a desert.” To this day when I cry, I’m convinced that I’m filling my life with rich forests and lush greenery.
“I look at the oak every day from my window and smile at him. I sit with him and tell him that there were good times and bad, laughter and tears, comfort and struggle. That we did our best with each other, and above all, that his memory lives inside of me, and I love him.”
I’ll go sit with my dad today under his mighty oak tree, 10 years later, and wish him a very special Father’s Day.