Thursday, May 03, 2018

On the Fifth Anniversary of My Father's Death


Dad crossed over at 3:07am on 5/3/2013. In my eulogy for DadI quoted Deng Ming-Dao's meditation on death. On this, the fifth anniversary of Dad's passing, I still find solace and wisdom in those words:
We give death metaphors. We cloak it in meaning and make up stories about what will happen to us, but we don't really know. When a person dies, we cannot see beyond the corpse. We speculate on reincarnation or talk in terms of eternity. But death is opaque to us, a mystery. In its realm, time ceases to have meaning. All laws of physics become irrelevant. Death is the opposite of time. 
What dies? Is anything actually destroyed? Certainly not the body, which falls into its constituent parts of water and chemicals. That is mere transformation, not destruction. What of the mind? Does it cease to function, or does it make a transition to another existence? We don't know for sure, and few can come up with anything conclusive. 
What dies? Nothing of the person dies in the sense that the constituent parts are totally blasted from all existence. What dies is merely the identity, the identification of a collection of parts that we call a person. Each one of us is a role, like some shaman wearing layers of robes with innumerable fetishes of meaning. Only the clothes and decoration fall. What dies is only our human meaning. There is still someone naked underneath. Once we understand who that someone is, death no longer bothers us. Nor does time.
-- Deng Ming-Dao (from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations)

Although he is gone, there are tangible reminders of my father. For example, I usually have at least two of the following items with me on a daily basis:

  • one of Dad's pocket watches
  • some of Dad's ashes in an old film canister
  • Dad's ring


Sunday, April 01, 2018

Remembering 4/1/2013 on 4/1/2018


I haven't been to Prophet or Madman since June of last year. Since then, I've done most of my posting at Bookended by Cats or directly on Twitter. But an anniversary like this moves me to reflect. Five years ago today, April 1 was on a Monday. Easter Monday. It was also my 19th and final day at the Cleveland Clinic with my folks. I would leave on Tuesday (4/2) and return to work on Wednesday (4/3). Dad was stabilized, the doctors were no longer looking for a proverbial silver bullet, and there was a plan to move Dad from the ICU to a Clinic rehab unit and then ultimately to a care facility closer to home. At the time, this felt like a good outcome. It felt like progress. As I look back upon this event with the ... benefit(?) ... of hindsight, knowing what was to come in just over a month, it might be easy to take a darker view of this memory. It can be tempting to connect the news received on that day with the supposed nature of the calendar date itself. So, yes, the irony of receiving hopeful, yet ultimately false, news on April Fools’ Day is not lost on me. But no one, whether in the Clinic or beyond it, was conspiring to deceive us on that day. There was no endgame or "gotcha" moment in mind. Everyone involved was dealing with the best information they had at that time, and there was cause to be hopeful. There was a very real possibility that Dad would make at least some kind of recovery. In the wake of what happened, was that false hope? No. What came later cannot mar the hopefulness and slight relief I felt on this day five years ago. Even though I'm still saying ... #GoodbyeDad. (If you want to read my 4/1/2013 FB post that sparked this reflection, the full text is posted after the jump.)