November 18th, 2018
Yesterday I posted an essay about my father’s funeral. I have since then deleted that article. It was too bitter, even for me, and I easily go to the dark side. It wasn’t that my words were inaccurate, but they lacked compassion. So, I will try again.
Since my father’s death, I have approached others to get guidance as how I should deal with the event. I have received a variety of responses, and some of them have been very helpful. In particular, a number of people from the Zen sangha have encouraged me to stay in the moment, to stay with what is happening now. That is a good idea, and also one that is difficult to put into practice.
Funerals are about the past. They tend to focus on the positive moments in the past. At many funerals, including my dad’s, there are boards full or photos and other memorabilia. People who come to funerals are actively encouraged to remember things about the deceased. They are prompted to share good memories with others in attendance. There is usually an effort to celebrate the life of the person who has left this world.
That doesn’t always work. It didn’t work for me. It was nearly impossible for me to remember good things about my father. I tried. I really did. Every time I attempted to recover a happy time, it was overshadowed by some emotional train wreck. I mostly remember people getting hurt, and not necessarily myself. Maybe other people could find those good moments. If they did, I didn’t hear them speak about them.
The strange thing is that whenever I visited my father during the last year of his life, I didn’t have a problem being with him. While I was physically in his presence, I never thought about the old days. I was just in the moment with my dad. Now that he is gone, everything about him is in the past tense. All my memories now are from the old days. Everything is somehow compressed. I can’t be in the moment with him any more. I can only go back to those dark days from years ago.
Remembering my dad hurts. Some hurts are clean and pure. The hurt that I feel now is dirty somehow. I can’t properly explain it.
It feels like the only way for me to be in the moment is to forget the man. That is probably impossible to do. In the long run, it probably isn’t healthy either. However, I need some distance from him. Even in death, he is way too close. He haunts me.
My father seldom spoke about his youth or his family. I believe that his past was traumatic, but I don’t know how. He wouldn’t say. He tried to forget too. That didn’t work for him. He was also haunted.