Another friend of mine lost his father a few days ago. He had flown across the ocean to be with his da, and was there with him when he departed. It was a blessing that he made it there to spend some time before the end. My heart goes out to his family today as they lay him to rest.
My friends and I are at that age, in our 50s, where our parents are all dying off. Each time someone loses a parent I am, of course, reminded of my dad. He left us too young at only 56. That has given me an extra 15 years to grieve his death, but that doesn’t mean I’m far ahead in the grieving game. It’s never as raw as it was when he died. But it’s still there. All the time. It’s always there just below the surface.
I have written about grief many times before. Because it never goes away, it only changes shape. And each time someone I know loses a loved one I come up with some new analogy, some new simile or metaphor, some new way to paint another picture. I have a thousand paintings of grief, some red, some gray, some blue. I have a hundred thousand words to describe how it feels, how it changes, how it lulls and how it lingers.
And today, for my friend Tom, I am thinking about a tiny little shovel, a silver charm hanging from a chain.
Because his father isn’t gone. He lives on in his heart, and maybe more-so, in my very logical thoughtful friend’s brain. And when he comes across the ocean again and life returns to whatever normal will be, the distance will cause him to forget that his father is gone. But time will remind him, over and over again, until he learns this new truth. And then this tiny shovel might serve him.
Gone from this earth, but not really gone, the dead remain in our hearts, and in our brains. And with this tiny shovel, we can exhume them whenever we need to. Unearth them and remember it all. Let the memories come rushing in, and feel them living on, inside of us.
They are still there. They never go away. They merely change shape. We can dig them up whenever we want to. They’re always just beneath the surface.