The moment I first heard of my father’s death, I wanted to run. I don’t know why. It was a gut instinct. I wanted to dart out the door, past ponds, down dirt roads, into the creek-bed, and keep going until I hit Baton Rouge.
I flew toward the door, but didn’t unbolt it fast enough. They caught me while I flailed like an idiot. A room of people watched while I cried.
It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. I wasn’t supposed to feel so naked, with so many gawkers. But that’s the way it happens.
The following days were black. I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t eat. I looked in our kitchen and saw more casserole dishes than I’d seen in my cotton-picking life. I tried to eat chicken and dumplings, but couldn’t keep them down. I ended up vomiting in the sink.
There was a live oak, at the edge of our pasture, behind the cattle fence. I went there to be alone, my Labrador followed me.
She and I passed entire days there, until I’d fall asleep with her on my lap. Sometimes I didn’t get back until well after dark.
Once, I even fell asleep in the shower. The water turned ice-cold and I realized I’d been out for nearly thirty minutes.
Nobody tells you grief feels a lot like exhaustion. It’s demoralizing, and reshapes your mind. During the nighttime, you feel afraid. In the days, you wonder why the sun seems so dim. You still want to run, but you don’t know where to go, or why.
Food tastes bad. Conversations feel shallow. Your friends seem selfish and disinterested. And whenever you remember your loved one, you hope it will bring relief. It doesn’t. It slices like sheet metal.
Why am I telling you this?
Because two out of two people die. One day, you’re going to go through this—if you don’t die first. Chances are you’ve already endured it.
The sharp pain lasts for a long time, until one day it feels like a bruise. One day, the time you spent sleeping in cattle pastures seems like faded memories. Mornings are brighter. People, nature, and food are more important than before.
It happened so slow you hardly realized it. Then, you look at the calendar and remember how long it’s been. You think of how much you’ve learned. Like: how good it feels to pet dogs, sit on porches, or play Scrabble. Or: how human life seems to last about as long as a six-pack.
Anyway, I don’t know who you are, friend. But I want you to know that you’ll smile again.
When that finally happens, drop me a line.
Because I’m praying for you.