Today is the 33rd anniversary of my father’s death, and I find myself reflecting on our continuing bond.
We are visiting family on the Island of Schiermonngikoog in the Friesland Islands, so I took myself to the local graveyard for some contemplation.
In my family the tradition has been to cremate.
We are people who shy away from talking about death and when it happens, it is dealt with as quickly and quietly as possible and that is it.
I have visited my father’s cremation wall. I have no idea if my siblings or mother ever have.
Grief in my family is dealt with by not speaking of it and waiting till it goes away.
As I strolled around the graveyard today I was struck by how much attention some graves displayed while others lay bare.
The love poured into these graves was palpable.
In Germany we visited the grave of a friends mother; so beautifully cultivated with an array of wild flowers; so colourful and alive.
What a comfort to have somewhere to grieve and honour and be with.
I think of my own grief journey, of holding up in the bathroom, choking tears back to silence, through fear of anyone knowing I was still feeling pain.
I would hide it at all costs while I tried to accept that my relationship with my dad was over!
It took me sometime to realise that this was not the truth; that my relationship with my dad did not finish with his death. That it grew with me, and my understanding of myself, and my dad’s influence in my life remains dynamic.
In grief theory this is called developing a continuing bond.
I wonder at having somewhere to attend to our deceased; like a grave, helps in developing a continuing bond and on the flip side I see how it may entrap some in the trauma of their loss.
The dead move on, it is us who have to find a way to do the same. Life is ever in motion.
My daughter asked what I want to happen to my body after I die?
I said I wanted the bits that were of use to be donated and then I guess I would be cremated..
She asked where I would like to be scattered?
I said wherever would bring her comfort. It will be of no importance to me- I will be off on my next adventure whatever that may be.
Today I see how the dead come to belong to the living. And in this alone there is life after death.
My dad lived his life and that belonged to him. In his death, he influences my life, and my children’s life in the stories I remember and the way I hold him in my private audience.
I love you dad and am ever grateful I found my continued connection to you.