Just a few days after we got home from California, my dad died. Since then, I've shared on social media about the mementos from my life that he'd saved, the rainbows I've seen, and how it all feels connected to the song we danced to at my wedding. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down.
For the funeral, I helped select the music, sat down with the minister and talked about what would be shared. I had a voice in the narrative, and the opportunity to stand up and tell a story provided its own surreal comfort. The funeral was the one day, the only day, that I haven't cried.
I just finished reading The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion's memoir about the first year following her husband's sudden death, and I understand when she writes:
"We have no way of knowing that the funeral will be a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning..."
I understand now that this magical thinking is not what I imagined when I first picked up the book. The magical thinking is not about putting a positive spin on things, it's about the way we trick ourselves into thinking we have some power to change what has happened, what's done.
Didion's question is also mine: "Why did I think that this improvisation could never end? If I had seen that it could, what would I have done differently?"
It's been two weeks since my dad's passing, and I notice how my mind is stuck in a loop, mentally reversing the clock, still believing in/wishing for the possibility of a different outcome. Trying to bring him back.
I understand that grief and mourning is a season, but not to be mistaken for something we can place on a time schedule. I also understand that the time is now, when my emotions and memories are close, to keep writing.
I'm reminded of an article I read a while back by author Dani Shapiro, A Memoir Is Not a Status Update. Shapiro writes:
"I wonder what would have become of me if I had come of age as a writer during these years of living out loud. My parents were in a car crash in 1986 that killed my father and badly injured my mother. If social media had been available to me at the time, would I have posted the news on Facebook? Tweeted it to my followers as I stood in line to board the flight home? ....And ten years later, would I have been compelled to write a memoir about that time in my life? Or would I have felt that I’d already told the story by posting it as my status update?"
Unlike Shapiro, I am coming of age as a writer during these years of living out loud. And I'm grateful for it. But I also understand what Shapiro is saying, and I see the fine line. I understand that there are some stories that must be held close, under pressure, before they are released.
So I will continue to write and finish my own memoir, which is about a time in my adult life with threads from my childhood woven in. The book is my attempt to make a "whole out of parts" as my lifelong friend Meg has said.
That's what I do. Every day. I try to take parts and pieces that don't seem to fit and make it whole.
Sail on, silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way. See how they shine. Oh, and if you need a friend, I'm sailing right behind, like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind.
Thanks for reading. You can also find me on Instagram.