Recently air travel has become a somewhat emotional experience for me. It’s not due to unpleasant flight conditions, unfriendly staff or anything like that. It’s just been – I don’t know – different.
Just yesterday for example, I’m looking through family photos and sketching portraits, and before you know it I’m in tears. Maybe it was a lack of sleep, the music I was listening to, or that I was heading to a funeral upon touchdown. Who knows, and what difference does it matter to investigate further? Just face it dude, you’re a softy.
The following is a snippet from my DayOne Journal, dated May 20:
Thirty-three thousand feet above ground is thirty-three thousand feet closer to heaven. At least that’s what I imagine. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always seen heaven as a place above the clouds, fluffy white and sunlit.
There’s not a lot to do on an airplane. It’s not like you can check Facebook. So as I flip through the photos on my phone, I pause at the one I took of dad days before his passing. This photo I choose not to share, it’s just for me. I zoom in close and run my finger along the side of his face. It feels like glass, artificial, not real. I notice he’s not looking directly into the camera, his gaze is off to the right. Perhaps he is smiling at my mother, or maybe he is lost in thought, I’ll never know.
Time passes but the hole in my heat refuses to heal.
So at thirty-three thousand feet I take comfort in perceived proximity to paradise.
I remember sitting at the foot of your hospital bed. You’d made little improvement, still we thought you were on the mend. I’d been there close to a week and felt the pull to go home with the family. Knowing you were missing the kids, I promised you that when I returned, we’d all come.
I kissed your head and walked out the door and a couple of hours later I boarded a plane. Within 48 hours of my departure you were gone.
The decision to go home when I did still weighs heavy on my heart two years later. The scene replays in my memory all the time.
May 3, 2014:
I’m heading out for a run soon. I’ve registered for a half-marathon on Father’s Day. Hope to do well – I’m dedicating my efforts to you.
May 4, 2014:
This evening I addressed an envelope to Mom (for Mother’s Day). It occurred to me that I will never address something to the both of you again.
A poet can take all the grief from her heart (the pain that can swell and break a heart) and write it in fine black lines on starchy white paper.
Fine Black Lines, Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad
April 29, 2014
Mom has been doing some gardening over the last few days. Today she told me that new flowers have begun shooting up through the soil. New life, new beginnings.
I wonder if you see her in the garden? Do you hear her when she speaks to you?
She – and I – think about you all day long. She looks for you every time a car door slams.
We really miss you Dad,
Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons license 2.0, RC Designer
During the year that followed my father’s passing I kept a special journal dedicated to letters written to him. Letters he would never read, but that over time would bring me healing and comfort amidst my mourning. Today is April 30, 2015 – 401 days since his passing – and I feel a particularly strong longing to see him and to speak to him. So it seems fitting to start sharing my letters with anyone else how might be interested in reading them. Perhaps someone out there is mourning the loss of their loved one, and my letters will bring them comfort. May they know that they do not mourn alone.
The earlier entries express great sadness – The death of my dad broke me. But as the year went on, my letters began to include signs of hope and contentment. I’m not there yet, but I’m healing a little every day. And I’m still writing letters to my dad.
April 25, 2014:
It’s been a month since you left us Dad. And I miss you terribly. There are times I forget you’re gone, and there are times I can’t believe it.
So I’m going to keep this little journal as a way to write to you. It has a wooden cover. I thought you’d like that. I’m writing this first letter as I sit out back on the deck, on the bench that you built. In a minute I’ll bring the barbecue out from the shed that you and I built together. This yard – this house – is full of memories of you.
When you first left us I was very angry (I still am at times), and I desperately wanted God to give me a sign that you were okay – that you’d safely made you way to heaven. And that heaven is real. I’d still like to receive that sign but I guess I’m a little more patient now. It’ll come. In time.
I love you,