And yet grief is also universal. As much as our culture encourages us to run from grief, even going so far as to turn away from ageing women who are a reminder of the scythe of time swiping closer each day to the youth-is-all-there-is-that's-worth-aspiring to myth. Each of us are touched by grief. Each of us shuffle a little closer to the end of the gang plank with each passing day.
This man, with his gentle hands and soft eyes was my Dad. He died 5 weeks ago tomorrow and i am acquainted with grief the way we all secretly wish to avoid but can't. Those we love will die. There is nothing else really that we are promised.
We might feel like we are promised all kinds of other things - my big three are that if you try hard enough love will last forever, things are fair, and love will prevail.
Grief has shifted the first two of those to the not so true pile. I have learned over the last 6 months that no matter how hard you try love may not last. I was taught years ago by a fierce and generous old woman that "Life is not fair my girl, no one ever promised that and the sooner you let go of that idea the better off you'll be." She was right and yet i seemed to have a bulb of hope that sprouted after each winter in my heart , a flower that held fairness and hope in it's sepals.
I wanted so much, as i realised that Dad would die soon, to be able to love him Home. To be able to put aside all of the detritus that had gathered in our path and return to the love that had me trust him so deeply. It was an imperative to me that i do that. I had no map. i had no idea what that would mean but i had to be with him in support as he found his way back.
It meant asking my separated husband to come back, leave his life and take over for an unspecified time. It meant asking my girls to manage without me. It meant being in a hospital, being with my birth family and all of the confusing and often difficult things that entailed. But none of that seemed to matter as much as seeing Dad Home. i had to trust my heart's urgency around this and do it. I could have listened to the voices outside of myself and just gone and visit but my heart's insistence was strong. It was my Dad and it was all that really mattered.
Dad's circumstances had meant we hadn't been available to each other much over the last couple of years. That was tough for both of us and i had begun grieving him long before, when the man i loved was no longer really "there". But none of that mattered.
My family's circumstance meant that this time was hard on everyone in different ways. That was tough but not in a way that really mattered.
So i continued to grieve while i turned up. With my brothers we made a map of what we needed to do, how we needed to be, what worked. We tended to Dad and to each other with kindness and care in a way that melted so much away.
I can't explain how it felt to be in that funny little room, it not really mattering if it was night or day. Not really mattering if we washed or ate or slept. I can't tell you all the things that happened in that liminal space but i can tell you what rose up and what sustained us was love.
So much love in fact that i think Dad stayed around a lot longer than the grim reaper wanted him to... he was bathing in that love, soaking it up. Too bad if the dude with the scythe was tapping his toes and looking at his watch, Dad received and received and received.
I read somewhere that a Buddhist teaching says that we take our state of mind with us when we go and i believe that those last few days Dad had here in this body, meant that he went on with love. Replete with Love, his own and ours and i can't tell you what that means to me this side of it all.
And that brings me to the regret piece, So often we regret what we don't do. I wanted to write this because i have been aware that had i carried any regret about what happened for Dad, this grief would be intolerable.
The gift of turning up for him full bore, nothing held back, in my true loving power has gifted me a clean grief. Hell yes i miss him. I wish i could hear him say "Love you" and feel the truth in those words one last time. But i can turn to him and know he experienced our love for him clean and true and that regret-less state holds me up.
I know i am lucky to have had the chance to farewell him that way but it makes me think about the other griefs i have. Things that are hard to carry and hard to lose. If i can tend to myself and my life without regret i know, from my experience with Dad that anything that comes on the other side of that will be cleaner and easier to carry.
I want to continue to live like that. To love clean. To turn up true. To be alive to what my heart tells me and to act on that faithfully. That regret-less life is not about being reckless but rather gifting myself the clean river of love that moves through me without the silt of "i should have.." that has clogged my heart for so long.
I miss you Dad and i don't regret a minute of loving you.