My father died when I was eleven.
While this wasn’t the first loss in my young life, his death certainly changed the trajectory of what was to come. James Theodore Mitchell, better known as Ted, was born in Seattle, Washington. He lived thirty-six years on this earth – son, brother, husband, daddy, friend, scientist, community member, believer. As I think about his upcoming birthday, I retrieve a few memories and images. During the last year of his life, for example, he surprised me at school and took me on an adventure for the day. We visited Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, CA. Known as the birthplace of the gold rush, the fort was also a refuge for pioneers and survivors during harsh times. I recall the fort that I built in the family room, my own refuge during confusing times, and wonder about the legacy it has for me. Survival? Certainly. Gold? Yes, I can now say, “Yes.”
I remember reading “The Hobbit” to him as his sight and energy decreased. I have always watched myself in this scene, alone under the golden lamp light in the darkness of his bedroom. I look back now and and wonder what he was thinking and feeling in the moment…his child before him – all of her gifts and dreams, those quirks that reminded him of himself or of my mother. I imagine him praying for my future as he struggled with the end of his own. I am sad as I write this, so many years of shared life experiences that did not happen, especially the security of “Dad” during the tumultuous becoming-a-woman years.
All of us experience the pain around death, perhaps my words trigger your own memories and feelings. If so, I hope you give them the space they need and the regard they deserve. I hope you pull out a picture or remembrance of your loved one and step into the fullness of that relationship…the both/and of loss that includes the assurance of love that does not cease to be.
The other day I sat before Long Island Sound, pen in hand, and opened my heart to gratitude. I relaxed into the spaciousness of grey water and quiet sky, I leaned into the strength of tall trees and coastal sea rocks along the shoreline. As my body melted into the world around me, the seagull’s flight invited me into her expressions of freedom and of trust. In that moment, and now as I describe this to you, I experience gratitude as more than an emotional or intellectual response. Gratitude, with a contemplative lens, is a resting place for the whole of me. Here, within the ongoing invitation of a grateful heart, I think of my Dad. My heart expands with felt-sense memories of his sweet patience and encouragement. I treasure his humor and integrity, his delight in me and mine in him. I will celebrate his birthday and receive the mystery of love, once again. I wrap it around the wounds of loss and say yes to the never-ending Braids of Love between us.
With affection, Lisa