From his daughter, Jaime
My Dad always asked me to write... He said it was my gift. There's a song lyric that says - with each gift that you share you may heal and repair. So here's what I've written.
There is a space in the center of my chest that wasn’t there before.
It grows in size when i think about what it feels like to hug you. Hear your voice say “hi honey” on the phone. See your car pull up at the ft. lauderdale airport.
Exploring El Salvador, Costa Rica and Thailand with you.
Hear the stairs squeak as you walk up them. The space in the center of my chest grows when I feel you in these memories. And I place my hand there, just as I did the night I received the news. Hoping to heal it.
It’s been there all week and sometimes I don’t notice it and sometimes it hurts so big that I’m certain you can see it straight through my t-shirts and sweatshirts. I can feel the food move around it as i eat. Leaving it there. Big. open. And empty.
And often times it burns
As it does now
Constantly stealing my attention
Inflating as I breath heavy in the dark, silent, lonely and mind-racing night.
and when my heart beats too fast for its own good
i can feel it echoing inside that hole
at the thought of the rest of my life without you.
Yesterday was the first day i took some real care of myself since you left. I guess I’ve needed a full week of crying and hugging Mom and talking to Danielle and Christina and Amanda and friends. the absence of your presence on this earth feels obvious in every little noise and smell and sound and thing I do.
And yesterday i finally took some me time. Some processing time. I did some yoga, meditation, and listened to some of my teachers. This is how I pray. Find some sort of understanding. Hear you. You were with me as I practiced. sat stood w myself.
I felt strong in my body again. Even if briefly. I saw myself sitting, ready.
I felt myself again, awake and aware of other things besides my own pain.
I saw things from a distance again.
I saw other people, too
In their pain and in their joy.
This was necessary and liberating and frightening and good. This is what you'd want.
One of my teachers says ‘no one is excused from pain. Every one of us experiences it’. Yo do not get to choose pain or no pain when it comes and when it goes. What you do get to choose is your attitude towards it.
I'm speaking with all of you now. My Dad always wanted more dialogue. Always finding a way to connect with people.Making sure people knew they had someone
In my peace corps blog I wrote about the sense of loneliness trapped beneath my mosquito net. In a blog comment my dad wrote:
“I remember the first time hearing the expression " I WISH I WAS A FLY ON THE WALL @ THAT OFFICE MEETING" it made me think. Sometimes I wish I was a fly on your mosquito net at night and could keep you company. A good friend of mine once told me " BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR " ....with my luck I'd be sucked up by a lizard. i will always remember these friends of the past and it brings me comfort knowing you have so many friends and will meet so many more through out your life. Love you P.S. don't be so fast to swat that fly”
You’d be happy to know, Dad, that last night we all sat on the couch talking for two hours. First it was just Danielle and I. Sharing memories, stories, reflections. Then Christina came down and into the kitchen for something and shortly found herself on the couch too. and then Amanda came down to do her coconut oil pulling. And she just listened and sign languaged for awhile. And then rinsed and shared some tears and stories and laughter with us. It was nice, the four of us. I think maybe the only time it was just us 4 all week - - maybe it was the only time it was just us 4 in awhile. It is a moment I'll never forget. I think you'd smile seeing us like that.
I have to imagine that some of this was your intention. That part of what was tied up in all this mess and tragedy and heartbreak is an intention for us all to be closer. For some weight to be lifted and for us to be more present for one another.
I know I want that. I need that.
I need to hug you more, Mom. To get to know you more. Your favorite songs. Your oldest memory. How you most like to spend your time. What you’d do if you had all the time and freedom in the world.
I need to spend more time with you, Danielle. Just hang out. I kinda know all those little things about you already. Tell me things I don't know.
I need to be gentler with you, Christina. Let myself see you more clearly. Go for walks and out to dinner - just us two.
Amanda, I need to be around you more. Hear your questions. Listen to you laugh. Chat about random crap.
In one of his messages to me, my Dad asked me to spread his love throughout the world. Something I always remember about him is that ‘there were always time for people’. Without hesitation he would say ‘tell them to come over’ or ‘have you spoken to Manuel or Kimberly?’ He would calculate how many pville friends we could safely fit on our boat or what things Lili and Karyme needed in El Salvador. He really cared about people. He loved meeting people and hearing their stories.
So when I look out. And I see everyone who is here. Uncle Joe. Aunt Pattie. Patrice. Jerry. Jackie. Kim. Pam. Lisa. Jen. Sirsan. I want this to be just about my Dad is it is about you all.
We all have pain that comes into and out of our lives. We don’t get to choose that. We only get to choose our attitude towards it. In a world so full of suffering, we can choose to let these big, open, empty holes in our chests be ready to receive light and love.
We need to do this. Our families, our friends, our loved ones, our world needs this from us. This is both our responsibility and our gift as humans. To choose our attitudes. To forgive. To get to know ourselves. To BE ourselves. To quiet our minds. To come back to being kind again. Gentler. Not so quick to react or to judge. To listen to one another.
I practiced that last night, sitting on the couch at 2am with my 3 sisters. And it was my favorite hour since my entire world changed last Wednesday. And I hope to practice it more tomorrow with my Mom on Mothers day. Listening. Not-judging. Just being there for the person in front of me.
I know my Dad would really appreciate that.
And as for the other gifts - all given to me by you dad - your unrivaled creativity. Your authenticity. The lessons you've taught me - I will use them as often as possible to honor you.
Above everything else you showed me how to believe in myself - and at the end of the day I suppose that's everything.
To close, I’d like to quote another teacher - Elena Brower. A poem that I shared with the students I am blessed to work with who come to me for support on a regular basis for processing grief suffering and purpose….
May you be grounded
may you know patiently
how to flow with whatever comes your way
may you feel, as a result of that groundedness and fluidity, that you, at any moment can transform anything of your choosing.
may you give and receive love
may you know how to listen
so that your communication is clear
May you know from the depth of your mind the sweetness that you are, may you always be ready
To all of our teachers and all of our families and all of our loved ones and all of you, may all of us heal. Thank you.