“Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tenderly, very sweet… wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me.” Thich Nhat Hanh, from the book No Death, No Fear
Five years ago I received a call from my sister. The call that I knew deep in my heart would happen one day. She told me that our father had suffered a massive stroke. He was still conscious in the emergency room and talked with him on the phone. Little did I know this would be the last time I would hear him say, “I love you, honey.”
I raced up the highway for what seemed like the longest drive in the world. My mind was on overload and adrenaline pulsed through my body. I had to get to the hospital and be by his side and comfort my family. Since I had spoken to him 7 hours earlier and fell into a near coma.
I spent a little more than a week with my father before his death. I lived at the hospital mostly and slept on the couch in his room. There were cherished nights when I sat and held his hand, walking through everything he taught me in my mind. I held the hand of the man with steel courage, a warrior and fighter. A decorated war hero, devoted father and husband, my father spent time and taught me how to deal with life’s ups and downs. There were regrets about things I had said or did that I wanted to take back. I began to replace them with beautiful memories, happy times when dad shared what he knew about life. He was never one to hide his feelings. We always knew exactly what he had on his mind.
He prepared me for life, but I had yet to realize it.
Nine days later, my father passed away with his family at his side. I was numb and in disbelief. In fact, I never knew the depth of my emotions until that night. I was convinced that a part of me was gone, something that would never come back to me. I felt lost.
I longed so for the things I couldn’t have; the warm hugs, sage advice on how to deal with the world. I wanted to hear him say what I call “daddyisms”. My favorites were, “Squeaky wheel gets the grease” or “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” I kept looking outside of me, thinking there was some way to deal with the pain I had in my heart. There had to be a book, spiritual advice comfort from others who had lost loved ones, too. I just wanted relief. I knew my father no longer suffered. So why was I choosing to live in fear and pain?
The stress in my life began to overwhelm me. A new business, troubled marriage and financial woes began to push me over the edge. A few months after my father’s death, I picked up a book called No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh. I was looking for peace within my pain and grief. And I found these words:
“From that moment on the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.”
I realized my father never left.
The very thing I kept looking for lived inside of me. I suddenly realized that as long as I lived, so did my father. I knew I had many of his traits. I began to see a bigger picture about life, death and love. I truly came from a long line of strong people, teachers and leaders. Ancestors who faced their fears head on. Everything I needed to deal with my grief and problem already existed. I had to reach deep down inside of me and used what had been give to me in love. Daddy, I thank you for that.