Is there anything that can mitigate the freshness of the pain?
I am tired of writing because I have nothing else to say. It’s the same thing. I try to say it over and over again because words fail me every time.
It’s like I’m in a haze and a few times a day, I awaken to realize what’s going on. Then I slip back into the haze and function appearing rather normal except for tears that fall silently and intermittently throughout the day. I wonder how long the haze lasts or if the haze just becomes my life and I get used to it.
I think the holidays are sad like every other day, but I’ve discovered the days immediately following are worse. They are the quiet days- the days when you make no busy plans- the days when you make pancakes at home with your family, run errands, watch movies.
I spent a large part of last night- until probably 2 am, working on one of the “memorial projects.” I went through all of our photos on a hard drive from when Audrey was born and took out every photo of the two of you together. I plan on putting eighty of them in a little red leather album Audrey received for her first birthday with a heart etched on the front so that she can look through them herself. I decided to print them all though- there are 199 decent ones I found, and put them in her “box” of things from you so she can have as much information as possible when she’s older.
As I went through the photos last night- the ones of you smiling holding our newborn, reading to her at four months, holding her on your shoulders last October at a pumpkin patch- I was lost in the haze for the most part- it was completely unreal to me that I did this because you are dead and these photos are all that Audrey will know of you. At one point, I even felt that sense of “Oh, as soon as I get these done, there’ll be more to organize” that I always feel with technology and photos- but then I remembered, “No, these are the only ones. There will be no more.”
I mostly knew which months and dates to look in because I remember the spans of time when you were gone this past year, but surprisingly, you were still so active in Audrey’s life- it makes me wonder how you did it. You were working, touring, and yet there you are playing with play dough, coloring Easter eggs with her, and at the shoe store buying her first pair of shoes. You were truly an amazing father to her. I cry at the thought of all you would’ve been for her.
You are so affectionate in the photos- kissing her in many, always hugging her or holding her- I wonder if she feels what I feel- the enormous sense of withdrawal of being touched and loved in this physical way by you. She must.
I see photos of you at the shore last summer holding her, her feet dangling in front of the bathing suit that you died in. I didn’t ever think you would die in a bathing suit. I just never thought this.
As it got later and later- 12:30 am, 1 am. and I got closer and closer to July of 2010, I could feel tension building as I looked through the photos- only a few more months…I have never put together a photo album before with such finality. There will be no more new pictures of Daniel Cho. I can’t believe this.
Today has been a very long day. In the morning we went to Barnes and Noble and Pathmark, and then Audrey refused to nap, so the day just continued- puzzles, markers, snack time, dinner time, bath time. It was long.
At one point, I sat at our kitchen table drinking tea, watching her play at her own little “kitchen table.” It was delightful. She poured her dolls (in the opposite chair) tea, pouring milk from the creamer pitcher, and then opened the little play sugar bowl, picked up a spoon and put a few spoons of sugar in the little plastic blue cup and stirred. “Here ya go,” she said to the doll, looking very pleased with herself. Tears streamed down my face that you are not here to witness all of these small, significant moments. You never knew her this way.
And I wonder briefly as I sit there- uploading the photos so I can print them- what will I do when all of these “projects” are done- they will probably take me through the first year…but then what…
I feel angry that you considered me so fearful- but yet there is clearly much to fear. Every time you left, I worried. “Call me- I’m worried about a smaller plane,” I emailed you two days before you died when you were taking a private plane to Italy for a concert. I became hardened. They say when you have a child it’s like your heart walking around outside of your body- but it was that way with you as well. So, I had to let you go. I tried to be strong. Sitting around my parent’s dining table while visiting the weekend of July 4th, I remember my dad saying something about dangerous winds and airplanes, and I felt annoyed at the suggestion of danger when I was doing my best to believe you’d be safe. “Thanks,” I said sarcastically. “She doesn’t want to think about that,” my mom said.
I go back to negotiations and denial a lot. I think if I had really loved you, I would’ve researched each destination on your tour to find out the potential dangers. I would’ve read that drowning in the lakes of Switzerland is the second leading cause of death for young men there. I would’ve told you, “Dan, I read that those lakes are dangerous- please don’t go swimming there.”
Or maybe I just could’ve called you that morning and delayed your meeting and swim. If you had gone by yourself, I know you never would’ve ventured out that far- in eleven years of knowing you and traveling with you, you’ve not once gone into a body of water that you couldn’t touch the bottom of. I know you would’ve waded in a bit and decided it was too cold. You would’ve come out and taken more photos. Instead, I have the final photographs you took on your iPhone. They are beautiful and peaceful and haunting.
The negotiations make me realize again how incomprehensible and dark is our path here on earth. There are far too many factors in each of our lives to have any idea all of the dangers we escape each day or all of the mercies that are poured out on us. Suppose you hadn’t drowned on July 6th- who knows what the future would’ve held? Would we have been grateful? Probably not, because this path of sight wouldn’t be opened to us. The idea that we have any amount of control at all over our lives is an illusion.
This kind of thinking leaves me feeling incredibly small and ignorant. “Looking through a glass darkly,” I surely am.
While I’m bathing Audrey tonight I think about how there are positive attributes to the grief- things that are pressed out and expelled…like being able to enjoy very, very simple things and moments. Going for a short walk to the marina next door with Audrey and getting a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts is a huge accomplishment and my day is full. I need nothing else. It’s not that contentment in any way overrides the abiding sorrow; it’s just that all of the striving is gone.
So, I think about how if positive, even beautiful things are expressed from the grieving process- maybe these things are like a trail that lead to the most beautiful transformation that you have undergone. Maybe when you left, they leaked through from that other realm from which I feel so shut out. The image in my mind is a puddle of car grease on black asphalt streets with those rainbows in it. Would something that is only pure ugliness and despair leave behind remnants of beauty?