AMBIENT THOUGHT – EPISODE One Hundred Sixty: Guilt Makes Grief Immortal

The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.

EPISODE ONE HUNDRED FIFTY NINE: GUILT MAKES GRIEF IMMORTAL

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…I can’t handle this
I grieve, for you. 
– Peter Gabriel

His death is still fresh in my mind and it’s hard to think of anything else. I’m still catching myself about thinking about going to his house to see him, to see how he’s doing, and then it quickly comes back to me.
There will be no seeing him ever again. At least, not on this earth.

Before my father’s funeral, I was asked if I would like any music played. First, I said no crappy organ sounding funeral music. I hate that sound. And second, I wanted The Eagles’ Take It To The Limit played. Of any song that I connect my father to, it’s that one.
So, when I heard it on the radio a few days after laying him to rest, it shocked me. The stations that play The Eagles tend to play only Hotel California or One Of These Nights or Life In The Fast Lane. It’s been ages since I heard ‘his’ song played. And yet, there it was as I drove home from work. Luckily I was wearing sunglasses as the tears started to fall. I felt like he was talking to me. Things were going to be alright.

Through the tears, I started to smile as I thought of him.

Then I stopped.

I felt guilty.

I felt guilty for smiling. I felt guilty for showing any emotion other than sadness and grief. As of this writing, it’s been just eight days since he died and four days since we laid him to rest. And I feel guilty for feeling happy for just the briefest second. I may have laughed twice since and immediately cursed myself for doing so.

Yes, I know how that sounds. I have started mentally flagellate myself at the slightest change of feelings that don’t include anguish. I feel like I don’t deserve to be happy for a second because my dad’s spirit might think I don’t/didn’t care about him. Or maybe somebody will think that the passing of my father meant nothing to me. Those people, of course, wouldn’t really know me at all, but still. And I know thy self… but still.

I went through the same feelings after my mother passed away more than ten years ago. For weeks after I felt I should smile or enjoy myself doing anything. Eventually, it passed and laughter came back. I don’t remember what I really laughed at the first time doing it again but I’m sure it felt like taking a deep breath after holding it for a long time. I’m sure the laughter took me over and took me a while to stop.

I’m hoping in time I’ll be able to experience that again.
But not right now.

My dad loved to laugh. He loved to tell jokes, play pranks, and joke around and smile and be happy. And I did my best to make him smile and laugh. It made me extremely happy to do so. I got it from him. I always wanted to be ‘that guy’. The quick-witted one in the group. Making people laugh had always been my ‘thang’. It kept me from getting into fights or being bullied, most of the time. It was my first defense. And it was just fun to do, to make someone laugh.
I got all that from my dad.

But now, I can’t bring myself to joke or laugh. And smiling has become difficult. Since my father died, smiling has become a mask. There were a few people that showed up at my father’s viewing that I hadn’t seen in person for years and it was overwhelming that they bothered to come. I smiled. And I meant those smiles. But they felt fake, some clown make-up to make a grease-paint smile over my sadness. I was truly happy to see these people but I felt I couldn’t allow being happy as I stood in the room where my father lay in his casket.

And I still feel like that.

I know, in time, I’ll feel it’s OK to feel actually happy again. Like with my mother, when I was finally able to see the light from my dismal hole in the ground (my own self-dug grave of despair) and something strikes me funny, I’ll laugh. I’ll laugh so hard and long if there are people around me when I do, they will fear that I’m going to pass out from a lack of oxygen. Myself included. But it’ll feel good. It’ll be me climbing out of that hole.

And it might even happen today…

But I doubt it.

The sadness of not having my father will last for the unseeable future. Even when I feel that I can genuinely laugh and smile again, I will mourn him. There will be moments that I will feel a quick pang of sadness when I am enjoying something. I’ll quickly feel bad that he can no longer feel happiness and suddenly laugh when he wants to. I’ll feel guilty that I’m still here and he isn’t. I’m still breathing and he’s not. I’m here and he’s gone.

I hope it dawns on me in those moments that… I’m wrong.

He is still here. He can still laugh and smile. He may not be breathing but that’s because he doesn’t need to.
And he still loves me as much as I love him.
And if I quiet my mind for a moment, I’ll be able to sense him all around me and in my heart.

If I can keep that in my mind as much as it’s in my heart, I’ll be alright. The smiles and laughter will come back. The guilt will leave.

But… not just yet…

-Loyd Elmore Jr
October 11th, 2019

 

I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.

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