Dad’s been gone for three weeks today. Just typing that stops me in my tracks. It doesn’t matter that he was aging and I knew this day would come. He’s gone and it feels like there are cracks in my foundation. I’m old enough to know that feeling is not a fact. I know that in part because of Dad. While I have on occasion joked that he, a Capricorn, had a tendency to grasp me, an Aries, by the ankles and try to hold me on earth… in reality he mostly tried to make sure I knew how to fly, even if I flew before he was ready.

This photo is from the last visit he made to California, and so the last time I got to hug him. He, Mom/Newelle, and Kaelin had been in LA for a Shaklee conference and had come north for a quick visit before heading back to New York. The photo’s out of focus and I don’t even care. There is something about it that is the image I see when I think of him. That smile that always reached his eyes, the bald/not bald head and the warmth of him.

I don’t remember what we talked on that visit. I do know that I was,and still am, grateful that got to spend time with him, Mom and Kaelin.

In the webinar “Healing the Brain After Loss” Neurologist Lisa Shulman explained that our brains perceive the death of a loved one as a trauma. The response to grief then is a trauma response. We physically, as well as emotionally, feel the death as if we are under threat and go into ‘fight or flight’. She explained that our mourning rituals are part of the remapping of memories which helps the brain cope with the trauma we are experiencing at the loss of our person. When we talk about them, tell the stories etc, we are showing our brain that our person is still with us, only in a new way.

At the time of this photo, I’d been sick for about five years. I’ve come to realize that my brain was not imprinting memories in the “factory standard” way back in those days which means there are large gaps in my memories. Looking through photos helps. I may not remember the specifics but I know the moments happened and that helps. I figure sharing what I can remember will help on a number of levels and being a writer who’s having trouble writing, I thought I’d try writing about the various photos and moments as I find them.

This grieving, mourning thing is hard. Harder and more complex than I understood. Some days have been crushingly hard, others have had small touchstones of sadness. I’m doing my best to be grateful and present for the gentle moments and breathe through the harder ones when they come.

A slightly blurry, color photo of my dad C 2010. He has pale skin, almost no hair (the receding hair line is waaaay down the back now, large, square-ish glasses, a salt & pepper mustache and a wide, bright smile. He is wearing a light blue button down, open at the top, and an open, darker blue jacket. Behind him is a glimpse of the open kitchen at the restaurant we were at.

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