Exactly one year ago, I was lying on my bed crying my eyes out and feeling the world collapse around me. Opi had just died. We came home from Omi’s house and I cried myself to sleep. I’m doing the same thing tonight. My journal from last year is open to the page of me and him smiling and I took out my box where I keep everything I hold close to my heart. I found the graduation card he wrote for me in thin, shaky, almost illegible writing just a week before he died…a petal from the rose I threw into the grave at his funeral…his prayer book that he got at his grade 7 confirmation…
It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since we lost him. A lot has happened this past year…and I think we’ve discovered that this gentle, quiet man was keeping our family together in more ways than we imagined.
My family went to visit him at the graveyard. We stood there staring at the tombstone while the sun was casting a beautiful, orange glow on the earth, and I remembered Opi for who he was when he was healthy and happy. I remembered him for being as vibrant as that orange glow in the sky. I tried not to think about his bones somewhere below me – every time I do, it makes me sad. I don’t want to think of him as dead and disintegrated – I want to remember him as the man with the cheery smile, waving at us as he got out of the car – sunglasses and hat, socks and sandals – holding his weathered wallet. I want to remember him smoking a cigar on a lazy summer’s evening just as the stars were starting to come out. I want to remember him in his blue bathing shorts, chasing waves with me and my sisters at the beach. I want to remember him kicking a soccer ball and giving a shriek of delight when he was excited.
Sometimes I remember him walking around at family parties sort of staring at nothing and bearing a very concentrated expression on his face. I remember him sitting alone at times, because we would all be too absorbed in faster, brighter, newer things. I wonder what he was thinking. I wish I had sat beside him so that he never had to be alone. I wish I was there to hold his hand and tell him that I loved him when he took his last breath. I wish he didn’t have to die alone.
I hope he knew that I loved him so much – with all my heart – and that there’s still a hole in my heart where he should be. It depresses me to think that when I’m older, more people still start to die and leave holes in my heart…so that one day, my heart will just be one big hole. That terrifies me.