Today is the sixth anniversary of my father’s passing. It’s hard to believe it has been six years. There are days when it feels like it just happened. There are days when I forget that he’s no longer here. I still keep his number in my phone. I cannot bring myself to delete it.
I know there are several opinions and theories about death. I am one who believes that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience and that our souls are eternal. There have been times when I have felt my father’s spirit so prominently around me that it would be impossible to deny the everlasting nature of our souls. And I know in my heart that the veil of protection that surrounds Emmanuel in his distance from me is that of my loved ones on the other side.
I am not talking about ghosts here. I’m speaking about the energy of love. Over these past six years, I’ve sought different ways to manage my life without my father, from reading books about grief to just outright talking to him. In doing so, I have come to understand love a little bit more in my life. As difficult as it is to let our loved ones go, I imagine unencumbered by their former Earthly worries, in spirit, they are able to love us in deeper and more profound ways.
That said, I’ve been thinking a lot about love on my “mom”bbatical and what it really looks and feels like and how it endures. Where can we find and live heavenly love on Earth during such turbulent and hateful times?
I recently spent a month in the United States. It was weird going back at first. I was curious as to how I would feel being on my home soil amidst all the crazy that is going on. I have been a pretty harsh critic of the state of affairs in the US. It is difficult not to be appalled and ashamed by the things that are happening in our name as citizens.
Nevertheless, I put my political frustrations aside to celebrate time and love with family and friends. Time that I expected would give me a recharge as I continued my life thousands of miles away. Theirs is a love that I try not to take for granted. A love that I count on to be there when I need it.
From the very start of my visit, however, I was blessed with the most unlikely surprise. It started off a bit ominous. The power at LAX went out right as I arrived from Paris. My connecting flight to Vegas was cancelled so I found myself sitting on a concrete floor in Terminal One stuck for the evening. I don’t have many people in Los Angeles. I’m a San Francisco Bay Area girl so I was prepared to hunker down for the night and chalk it up as an impromptu bucket list experience–“spent the night in an airport–check.”
To cover my bases, I decided to toss a Hail Mary message to an old friend on Facebook and within an hour, I was nestled on a chaise lounge in James Vincent Gaston’s living room catching up on old times. His was a face I hadn’t seen in person in over twenty-five years. Our formative moments were days spent at church and time passed on the high school musical stage. In Finian’s Rainbow, I was Henny to his Og and when I arrived at his door, the first words out of his mouth were, “Look at my Henny.” What could have been a night of pure misery ended up being an unexpected evening of enduring love between two friends.
The surprises didn’t stop there.
I am a native New Yorker and I have always marveled at how in a population of millions, on any given day depending on the block you turned down, the exit you took out of the subway, or the store window you stopped and gazed into, you could have an run-in that in no way could be classified as a coincidence. Strolling through Brooklyn during my visit, I heard my name being spoken, “Tara, is that you? Oh my goodness, what are you doing here?”
The voice was none other than my “Auntie Reggie”, one of my mother’s running buddies from when I was child in Brooklyn. Regina “Reggie” has known me since I was a swell in my mother’s belly and has watched me grow from a distance since my family left Brooklyn when I was six. Her own life had taken her to Bermuda, Florida and Georgia. Now, a proud grandmother, here she was in downtown Brooklyn with her daughter, son-in-law, mother and two grandchildren, all visiting from Georgia. We were all pretty stunned by this unlikely encounter.
We reconnected a few days later with shopping and laughs in Harlem. I was still in awe of our collision in Brooklyn. The day ended with them treating Emmanuel to dinner as I departed for another engagement. He didn’t have the same history of memories as I did, but he was family and the love that endured over the years was extended to him without question.
On this journey through life, I believe the Divine or the Universe, whatever concept in which you take comfort, is constantly pushing us towards those experiences that affirm the eternal nature of love. It reminds me of that line in The Color Purple, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” So caught up in our status symbols, titles, and principles, we can forget the ever-present potential for love that is all around us.
Humbled as I was by these two beautifully fated encounters, I was equally overwhelmed by a recent comment exchange with a friend about our mutual art. My friend vulnerably laid bare his emotions through his photography and I viewed it as a act of love to those who would receive it. It was an act that also seemingly defied the narrow view with which we define masculinity. I felt honored to observe his gift and also recognized how easy it was to receive.
While this is certainly not an endorsement, I get what Marianne Williamson is trying to tell us as a collective. We are being traumatized by hate right now. Yet as my friend, Lisa, reminded me once, our nation is more than one man or his followers. Their irrational animus is no match for the enduring bonds that we can create, one to another.
So, I dedicate this post to my father whose love is always with me and who is the light that I follow as I strive to be a more loving person each day. And I thank all of you who walk this love walk with me. You give me hope.