I have become acutely aware that I’ve marked the passing of days not by the rise and fall of the sun, but rather a spark of flame.
Each night before going to sleep, no matter how tired I may be, nor how late into the night the clock does strike, I take a little tea light candle and place it within its decorative holder. Upon its surface, the scripted words: “If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk in my garden forever.”
I own a beautiful garden, indeed.
There remain for me delicate strings that I cannot relinquish. Tethers upon which my grip shall not loosen. I believed at one point that this marked my final stage of grief, but I was wrong. My steps have come and gone. The searing dissection of my heart. The many moments I have spent surrounded by others, yet lost. The callous void of any being and purpose. The naive empowerment derived from a senseless rage. So it was I thought that denial had, at last, overtaken me, a surge from a merciless sea, some featureless hound nipping at my heels. But it had not. I merely realized there are cords never to be broken. Knots never to be unbound.
The subtle wash of flame licks my cheek every night, penetrating the darkness by means of a sublime orange halo. It provides me comfort; it provides me peace. But as my lips move wordlessly in silent prayer, it provides me one other measure, a possession that no person on earth should live without – hope.
Nearly a year ago, I posted a blog titled “Has my father come back to visit my daughter?” http://wp.me/pQvQq-t It took a long time for me to digest what my daughter could have possibly seen. Cruelly ironic, is it not, that when confronted with a truth so dear to your heart, it becomes almost too difficult to believe.
My daughter Athena, who is readily progressing beyond her developmental delays, took my hand last week and led me into the kitchen. Without just reason, she proceeded to open a drawer full of AJ’s doggie snacks; I have not emptied that drawer, nor will I ever. Her presence remains permanent within my house. “Come Daddy,” Athena said. My daughter’s speech has blossomed in comparison to last year.
“What are you doing?”
“Come Daddy,” she repeated. In her little hand, a bag of AJ’s snacks. I followed her sunshine smile up the stairs. My daughter melts me. And she knows it, too. “Up-tair, Daddy, ” she giggled upon each step. “Up-tair!”
She scampered down the hall and entered my bedroom. Athena stopped before AJ’s urn, which is nestled upon her favorite pillow, surrounded by her favorite toys. There is a vase alongside her as well, filled every week with fresh flowers. Athena waved the doggie treats in the air, then brought her wiggling fingers to her mouth. “Eat…eat.”
There are moments in life that seem to move much slower than the rest. Moments you realize some great epiphany is about to strike you breathless and grasping at straws. “Who’s eating?” I asked.
“A-Jaaaaay. Feed ‘er.”
“You’re feeding her?”
“Yeah Daddy!” Delirious shrieks of delight. Hands clapping with joy. “Me feed A-Jaaaaay.”
And as it happened nearly one year ago, I could not stop myself from asking again. “Do you see AJ, Athena?”
“Where do you see her.”
Yes, sometimes you realize an epiphany is about to strike. “In your room? When do you see her in your room?”
“At night in your room. Tell me what happens. Tell me what AJ does.”
” ‘leep on bed wit me. ‘ick my nose an’ ‘nuggle.” Athena stuck her own tongue out, showing me how AJ licked her nose. Then she proceeded to show me where AJ sleeps and snuggles on her bed. Alongside her left hip and leg.
Exactly where AJ always slept with me.
Each night, every night, I light my candle. I have done this faithfully since both my father and dog passed away, always with a prayer – for their peace and joy, for our reunion, and that they may see my candle glow – upon my lips. A prayer that I have never forgotten, that they may always feel my love, that they may watch over Athena and visit her whenever they wish, and that they know I believe. There are some nights, with eyes closed in prayer, that I can feel a distinct presence alongside me. It does not always happen; it is often very quick and curiously difficult to explain. I feel the space beside me become pressed, full, heavy. Sometimes, my body tingles. It is not a scary thing. When someone comes to visit and place an arm around you, it is not frightening at all.
Yes, there remain connections for me timeless. Eternal. In this, I do believe.
I’ll be going to bed soon. Tonight I will light another candle. I will plant another flower. And if you should ask why my garden is so beautiful, I will tell you only that the soil I use is rich with hope.