I'm on the plane to go to my father's funeral. I'm listening to Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, Book I, and the Fugue in C#, begins. It has one of the most beautiful, melancholy, descending musical passages I've ever heard, and I have long adored this piece. With no warning, I'm weeping, and I reach for Robin's hand.
Grief, I'm finding, is like that. It takes you where it will, like the swells on an ocean. It feels good to let myself ride the rise and fall. I have no reason to fight it or fear it. I am not in distress. I have no hesitation to letting myself feel.
I now inhabit a life where, for the first time, my father does not share it. I am grateful he had such a fast passage out of it. A month ago I was with him, when he was still living independently with his wife, June. He tired easily and frequently, he could barely move around, but he was cogent, fully himself. He felt he was fading fast and he told me so.
Two weeks later he was in a nursing home, too weak to sit up. On Sunday he said maybe 12 words all day. On Monday he said he wanted to go home. On Tuesday he recognized nobody in the room. By 6am Wednesday he was gone.
The first tears came when I posted the news on Facebook. A larger squall took me over when I went over photos of him and his photographs, I took 5 years ago. For the last year I have been anticipating his death, through one health crisis after another. The Chambersburg ER should have issued punch cards--10th visit free!--for his patronage. It felt like an impending storm, dark and massive on the horizon, whose arrival and strength I could not anticipate. But I knew it was coming.
Lying in bed, after the early morning phone call, I imagined that the front had arrived. The winds blew, the rains fell in a torrent, and then the sky lightened behind the passage of the squall. It was blustery and showery. The long awaited event had finally come.
Suddenly, I don't have the regular, daily sense of impendingness in my life. What I have now is new, unfamiliar. His passing was expected. What comes next is not unexpected, I knew there would be grief. I just didn't know what it would feel like. I still don't. Right now, it takes me by surprise. The interior image is no longer weather, but a place, an ocean. It hasn't been 48 hours yet, and I'm hazily understanding that I've only just entered the water, and that I have no idea where the currents will take me. I know my only job right now is to let them.