The Road to the Deepest Truths

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Yesterday would have been my father’s seventy-first birthday.

If he were still alive, he might have had a bowl of vanilla ice cream to celebrate. Or maybe he would have gone for a drive to see the ocean, to breath in the salty air, to feel the wind on his face. I can’t say for sure because in the years following my mother’s death, he was sad and heart-sick and drinking too much. For ten long years, my father was suffering.

But I don’t like to remember my father this way.

It’s been five years now since he passed. Five years since, for reasons unknown to authorities, his truck drove through the neighbor’s garage door. The truck hit the oil tank, and moment’s later, there was an explosion. No one was able to explain why or how this happened, but they did not rule it a suicide. When I met with the funeral director, he told me that when my father was found, it appeared that his hand was reaching for the door knob. He’d tried to get out. This image of my father that does not leave me, ever. Sometimes it will come out of nowhere, stray, like a feather floating down or a fluttering butterfly. And when it happens, all I can do is yelp out, Dad. My heart truly aches for him.

Over the weekend, I had a friend visiting, and he asked me about the accident. Suppose it was the trust I felt toward this person, or the comfort and mutual respect of sixteen years of friendship between us, but I let myself open up. As I went over the details, my friend took me into his arms and still, my body felt rigid, reluctant to soften. I kept waiting for him to pull away, ready with the words I’m sorry on the tip of my tongue—sorry for my emotions, for the trauma that happened in my life. But he didn't pull away, and love ebbed and flowed at the contact points of our bodies.

Something inside of me shifted then. I was brought back to the afternoon when I finally felt my mother’s death. That time, I was alone. There was no one to hold me.

At the time, nine years had passed since she got sick and died for reasons, still, that no body can tell me. I remember I was trying to remember her voice, but I couldn’t. And it was then that the knowledge that had been there all along, that I was unwilling to feel, swelled in my throat.

I walked into my bedroom and climbed into bed, pulling the covers over me, seeking protection, wanting to feel safe, wanting to hide. And then, I let it all out.

What I remember most about that day was the momentary sense of relief, I think, because it felt so incredible to cry. Like, really cry. To feel the full weight of my sadness, and of her loss, as well as the heat, and the rawness of my entire body. That afternoon, there was no pretending that I was okay.

The effort of self-containment is ceaseless. A battle to never be won.

In my friend’s arms, I realized that it’s taken me fifteen years to shed the hard, protective layer of myself that I once thought was so essential. The part of myself that was preventing me from moving on from my grief and ultimately, healing. I suppose I thought that hanging onto my pain had its purpose—it proof enough that I loved on a grand scale. That my parent’s lives meant something. But ultimately, what I was afraid of was my anger. My powerlessness. My incredibly vulnerable human body. My self, and most of all, my own impermanence.

I dropped my friend off at the airport and when I walked away, I knew that something in me had changed. I re-entered the world with open eyes.

We find a flower beautiful for how it grows, how it expresses itself, its color. And even as the petals drop, how can the heart not ache with its insistent beauty?

Jocelyn M. Ulevicus has a background in Social Work, Psychology, and Public Health. Her work focuses on exploring the terrain of family violence and re-humanizing oneself after trauma and has been published in magazines such as Mindful Matter, Entropy and Life in Ten Minutes. Ms. Ulevicus currently resides in Amsterdam and is finalizing her first book, a memoir, titled The Birth of A Tree.

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