Recently I was reading aloud a blog I had written to the kids around the kitchen table and was eerily transported back over 30 years – to when I was the child, hearing my father happily read his musings and waiting for the part I was in. It was a rich memory to have unexpectedly rediscovered. All of this reminded me of the unique passion for life and joy I remember my father possessing – and sharing with others through his writing, his sense of humor and loud laughter….as if I had just seen him!
As you can imagine, having been 11 when his life was ripped out of mine, left me with few memories from which I have been able to easily draw upon. And yet all this felt perfectly orchestrated, as if there was no coincidence that on the eve of the anniversary of my father’s death, his aliveness would be uncovered. Reading one of his hand-written pieces that is dear to me reinforced what I had remembered to be so true.
The last time I saw my father was on Halloween, the night we celebrated my brother’s 10th birthday, the night that Dad revealed his motorcycle to grandma and grandpa – who were quite distraught by it, (and then had it in their backyard a week later, reminding them of the horrible death their son had on it) and the night I was nearly abducted by drunk people. That night, frightened for my life, my father held me against his cold leather jacket and told me “I’ll always be there for you.” Then he was taken four days later.
It’s no mystery that Halloween – pop-culture style with all its gore, conjures up deeply painful memories I wish to never re-experience. Therefore my focus has been on Hallow’s Eve and All Saints’ Day instead. This year when our ten-year-old bellowed that this was “the worst Halloween Ever!” because she didn’t get a full bucket of candy and didn’t see her friends (new neighborhood), I was deeply triggered. As we prepared for bed, I gently asked her if she wanted to know what was my worst Halloween. She said yes, so I briefly told her about the night I last held my Dad. We cried together. She said she was sorry for her comment. I told her I understood her feelings and we had resolution. Education takes the most unexpected forms.
All Saints’ Day on November 1st is a Catholic holiday that is widely celebrated Europe, a national holiday, and a day that family members gather and visit grave sites of loved ones who have passed. While living in Italy and The Netherlands, I found solace for the first time around this season, even though I’m not Catholic. My experience on this day was that it was a time when we honor the significance of the ones we have loved – and did so as a nation. The unification of doing this with an entire culture of people normalized my experience of the loneliness of loss in a way that was new and oddly liberating.
Join me in honoring those who have left footprints on our hearts and light a candle for them on All Saints’ Day. I’ve made an altar on our bookshelf with two photos of my father, one with his arm around me, and his poem – in his handwriting. I pray for great peace and joy as we move forward into November, and the closing of this calendar year.