I can’t believe it has been a year since you died. In many ways, I still feel a sense of disbelief about your death. If I catch a glimpse of someone who looks like you, my heart does a little stutter. If I call the house, I anticipate your voice answering the phone. If I’m reading a book and come across a passage that I know you would enjoy, I think “I’ve gotta read this to Dad.”
In my brain, I know you are gone from this world. But in my heart, I’m still trying to accept this. I feel like I’ve put up wallpaper over this big gaping hole where my grief for you lies. And sometimes I punch a hole right through and feel this enormous empty spot where you should be. I have to keep reminding myself that you aren’t here to talk to any more … that you’re not on some extended vacation and will be coming back any day now with marvelous stories to tell us.
Sometimes I go to Amazon and visit your wishlist, which is still up there. I know that sounds really strange, but I find it comforting in a weird way. It is a trace of you still left out there in the world that I can go to and visit. I look at the books that you had on there and wish I had been able to give them all to you to read. Sometimes I reread old letters you sent me when I was in college. Inspired by some of the books you mentioned, I’ve started reading books you always wanted me to read (Musashi) or we read together (The Once and Future King). Because of a letter you sent, I’m reading The Brothers Karamazov right now. Let me tell you, this is an enormous act of love on my part because that book is brutal! It is only for you that I would read it!
The Little One and I talk about you frequently. He is still struggling to come to terms with your death and what it means in his world (his mom and dad could die too). Talking to him has helped me immensely. By telling him that Grandpop wouldn’t want us to cry all the time and be sad, I remind myself that it really is what you would have wanted. I wish you could see him though. He’s growing up to be such a great little kid, and he’s at an age that I think you would really enjoy. He has lots of “deep” thoughts, and I know he would have loved to learn more about the brain from you. The other day I told him we needed to go through his clothes to see what he needed for school, and he made me promise that we wouldn’t get rid of the t-shirt you gave him from Nepal. He wants to keep it forever because it came from you. I think that would make you happy.
In the past year, I found myself seeking out books about the afterlife in an attempt to understand what you might be doing now. I like to think of you having a grand adventure out there somewhere, which I’m sure I am unable to comprehend because of my puny human brain. We all shared our stories of signs and dreams that we felt you sent to us to let us know you are OK. When we met Mom and Chris out in San Diego, we saw a butterfly everyday so it felt like you were there with us too.
Mom has been doing as well as can be expected I think. She had a really tough winter, but she made it through. She’s starting to try and piece together a life without you there, and Chris is doing an amazing job of being there to support her and help her out with the house. As much as possible, I think we’ve all managed to comes to terms with what happened–as unreal as it sometimes feels.
You left a huge gaping hole in our lives–and in the lives of so many other people. It was amazing and so healing to hear from so many of your former patients and colleagues and friends. Everyone had a funny story to tell about you, and I was so proud to hear what a great doctor you were. So many of your patients took the time to tell us what a difference you made in their lives. That is no small thing to leave the world a better place, and I think you really managed to do that.
Although not a day goes by that I don’t think about you (I keep your retirement photo by my bed and look at it when I wake up and when I go to sleep), I thought I’d take some time to write you this letter. It makes me feel connected to you in some small way.
I miss you and I love you.