Somewhere over Saskatchewan at 33,000 feet, after watching Bohemian Rhapsody, I find myself at a loss for words, yet an intense desire to reflect on what has happened over the last six days. Fittingly, halfway through the trip, was my emotional ascendance - visiting Dad’s grave for the first time in over two decades. The museums, the food, the tours, in Halifax all led to this moment of staring and standing over where my dad has been since I was five years old. Pine Hill Cemetery in Chester, Nova Scotia. I’ve outlived him and it’s strange.
My whole family on my Dad’s side is there, lying in peace or torment or nothing at all. I rest my head on Dad’s simple headstone like a pillow and stare up at the pine that watches over him. His eternal view. To my knowledge, no one has visited his grave since I was there last burying his dad, my grandfather, when I was fifteen. I brushed off the pine needles and dirt as best I could. His only company, I suspect, has been birds and squirrels. I actually think he likes it that way.
Let’s pretend for a moment that he is somehow with me, talking with me. I do that and we talk as a father and son should - At first, I blame him for leaving me and fucking up my life. For several moments there is crying and sobbing and weeping.
I tell him he’d be proud of his grand-kids.
I know he’s proud of me too. I’m an awesome father. I never had one and I want my kids to connect with me in a way that I never had.
But I did have it for a short time. That connection. For five wonderful years. I told him that five years with him was better than fifty years with someone else. I understand now why my mom never looked for anyone else. My dad was irreplaceable. In the end, there was more crying and weeping but no longer anger. Just uncomprehending love. I walk away.
I won’t look back. I will remember the short time we had together, but he can no longer be my excuse to keep me in that horrific moment when he went to sleep one night and never woke up. That little boy is still grieving. It’s time to move on. Not to forget, but to let go. It’s time to move ahead with confidence. It’s what he wants me to do. He told me. Move ahead in love and strength, even if it’s scary. The little Davey inside of me can grow up now.
Five years is all we had together and it causes me to ask, if I only have five years left, how would I live? I used to be afraid of death. It’s not so much death, but the fear of no longer living (I do plan on living forever - although the odds are slim). Now however, I have a different fear. The fear of being forgotten.
I don’t want to end up in a forgotten grave.
The journey ahead is not easy. But fuck it. It never is. My dad impacted my life profoundly for five years. I have a chance now to stand on his shoulders and impact the world.
The only word written on his grave other than his name was, “Peace”
How can I live out his final word in the time I have? His message is echoing beyond his death, and beyond my life.
Hm. I guess I did have something to write. My Dad was a writer and a teacher. My brother is a published author and I’m a public speaker that teaches storytelling. Thanks Dad. Your impact is evident in the lives of the children you never saw grow up. I am proud of you too Dad. I love you.