By Safa, Tunisia
I knew he was dying, but I couldn’t accept it. We had been in the hospital for weeks and had fallen into the routine, waiting, watching, and remembering the laughter, the sadness, and the silence. Then we took him home, as the doctors couldn’t help him anymore. I realized then that I had assumed that my father would just go on dying, but never actually die. I was in a mere state of denial.
On the morning of May 27, 2007, I woke up at 8am, people were crying and I felt something weird within me. I could not hear anything except for my heartbeat. I knew but I remained silent. How do you speak when unshed tears claw at your throat? My heart didn’t feel broken or shattered when my father died, it felt as if it had been ripped bloody and pulsating from my chest, leaving only a gaping hole to remind me of its existence. A life without him didn’t seem possible. It still doesn’t.
I had the strangest sensation, perhaps my last moment of denial, that my dad would wake up and tell me all about dying, what it was like, how it had gone, as if having triumphed over the last of life’s challenges, he could give me some wisdom about what to expect.
Now, it has been 8 years, 2 months and one day. Or, if you really like numbers, as much as my dad did, it’s been 257.817.600 seconds. So, I guess it has been a while since my old man was buried six feet under. I’d like to think I’ve behaved fairly rationally since then, emotionally detaching myself from his death in efforts to minimize the impact of grief as much as possible. But we humans, believe what we want to believe and the truth is, I sometimes feel that I don’t recognize myself anymore. So much of my identity was being my father’s daughter and now, nothing is the same.
What is the meaning of life and is it worth it? These were questions that I could no longer answer as I navigated the world exposed, vulnerable, hovering somewhere above my body somewhere between reality and a dream state. Other times, it felt as though I were in a bubble deep beneath the sea. I could see people in the distance, but they couldn’t see me. I could hear words coming from their mouths, but they made no sense.
In the days and weeks following my Dad’s death, countless people told me “it will get easier.” Now, eight years later, I can say that yes, in some ways it has. My Dad’s death is no longer one of the first things I think of when I wake up, nor is it the last thing I think about before I fall asleep; it no longer consumes me. But, I still miss him. I still have days and weeks, when it’s just as painful as it was seven years ago. I still have moments that make my head spin. There are several things, in particular, that almost always trigger one of these moments and force me to quite literally say hello to my grief. One of them is time. One of the hardest things that has come with losing my Dad is the occasional realization of how much time has passed, birthdays, holidays, and other milestones are all painful reminders. There are days when I feel like it was just yesterday that he died, but other times, when I feel as if it has been a lifetime and I can no longer imagine my life with him in it.
Many people who have not lost someone mistakenly believe that death is something you will “get over.” However, the truth is, it will always hurt. I admit that it’s not always a constant, overwhelming, all-consuming grief, but the little things, within which grief hides, hit you when you least expect it.
Now what matters the most for me is that whenever I feel sad, I close my eyes and I remember my Dad. I put my hands on my heart and try to listen to his voice. I can hear it whenever I want, as long as I want to listen.