this week, on wednesday, my dad will have been gone for ten years. and when i say gone, i mean he will have been dead for ten years. i am ambivalent about saying that word: dead. sometimes it seems crass and inappropriate and rough and ugly. but at other times, it seems wholly and absolutely appropriate. after all, the whole damn thing is a lot of rough and ugly.
passed away, moved on, left us? i guess. those turns of phrase are meant to soften the blow, i suppose, but that's like saying a single feather placed over your heart will soften the blow when an elephant sits on your chest. it doesn't work. nice idea. but it doesn't work.
in the end, i think i say "dead" sometimes because "dead" is a permanent word. it does not equivocate the way those other phrases do.
my father's death is the most permanent event i've ever experienced. it was the first thing that had ever happened in my life that didn't make sense to me that i also had no hope of ever changing. bad grade? upsetting, but maybe you can earn extra credit. your boyfriend breaks up with you for another woman? heartbreaking, but there's still a chance you could reunite or find someone better. even getting some sort of disease offers the hope--however slim--of cure or inexplicable miracle. but dead? dead is dead, and that's all there is to it. yes, i know i can feel his presence sometimes, and yes, i know about the many possibilities of afterlife, and yes, there are many beautiful things i've experienced having to do with his memory living on through us. but, come on, that's not the same. it's not the same at all.
i remember standing in the kitchen the morning my father died. i was paralyzed by the image of the huge, wide, long space of my life stretching out in front of me--all without him in it. it seemed impossible. now, ten years of that huge, wide space of my life is behind me. and it still seems impossibly, surprisingly permanent.
so. yes. at this very strange ten year mark, i am reminding myself--and i remind you--to love the people we love here and now and as much as possible. because, as bizarre as it still seems to me, you cannot change dead.