Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Chronicles of Grief

I've kept pretty busy for the past 16 days since my dad died. Busy and distracted. Even in the immediate week following his death I was distracted by sharing the nostalgia of his life with family and friends. That's even considered a welcome distraction, if not the best kind.

But there have been moments when I'm by myself and the nostalgia turns to the present, then rotates onward and points toward the future. That is what knocks the wind out of me and still makes me cry. Missing the next 50+ possible years without him makes me sad. Feeling for my mom and my 16 year old brother is worse. Knowing my kids will not know their Grandpa Mark (or whatever we will call him - Opa?) makes me so sad for them and I sob at the thought. Unlike the rest of us, they will have no cherished memories of him. Just our stories. But they will be plentiful, let me assure you.

Photos are also tear-jerkers. What a gift photos have been in the past 16 days. What a gift the internet has been to share and store those photos. But they're not easy to look at. Like a moth to the flame. So enticing and inviting, but they burn.

Right now, I'm alone in my hotel room, in Bellevue, WA, visiting for work. Mom and Dad lived here for a short while before I was born. Daniel was born a few blocks away in 1979. I came next, three years later, but by then they had landed in California. Everything reminds me of him. I even sat alone and ordered a non-alcoholic beer tonight as he used to on rare occasion for a quasi-rebellious treat. I never really understood that, but sitting here in Bellevue, eating dinner at the bar, it felt right.

Here I am again, "enjoying" a few photos of him and crying. Getting it out of my system, but not feeling the grief and longing dissipate from wherever it's stored inside. I'm simply sharing it with the hotel desk and Kleenex without depleting the supply I have.

What a manly man I am.

Let's get all these admissions of tears out of my system now, and then get passed it, shall we? It might be therapeutic to chronicle some of my cries since hearing of his surprise departure. I don't want to forget these feelings. Again, the masochistic moth.

  1. The first was while waiting to board my plane in Denver, reading facebook comments and emails of others that were grieving his sudden passing. Read more on that special experience in my post entitled "Mark Dow Forsyth."
  2. The second time was on the plane to Philly only an hour or two later. I asked Jaime to download Bill Frisell's recording of "Shenandoah" on her iPhone while we drove to the airport. I listened to it twice through while sitting in my aisle seat in the plane and could not stop from sobbing. I didn't bother holding it back much, even though I was in close quarters with everyone else on the full flight. Music will do that to me. My dad and I both love that song. Especially my dad.
  3. The third was when I sat and read my dad's will the next day. My dad, the boy scout, kept a "Prepardness Binder" of his recently updated will and even an outline of his desired memorial service, among other important documents. Reading about where he desires to have his ashes scattered cut me to the core. I bawled at my mom's dining room table as I read of the places he would like his sons to scatter his ashes. It was as if he was writing to me - Mt Shasta, Half Dome, a beautiful coral reef, a catch-and-release trout stream - but I know it was for all of us. It was very touching for me and the amount of emotion caught me off guard.
  4. At his memorial service on Tuesday, November 10. But not until I walked up to the podium and faced the hundreds of people there. I said "I love my dad," in the present tense. That was it for mister tough guy that day (see #5 and 6).
  5. Throughout other people's words during the wonderful memorial service.
  6. Right after the benediction, a bagpiper stood and played "Amazing Grace" at the only volume bagpipes can (an element specified in his memorial service ouline). There was no holding it back. If the purpose of the service was to thrash the congregation with the spirit of my father and his presence we will miss, it was the perfect end to the service. Like reading my dad's will, it caught me completely off guard. The music pierced my guts and knocked the wind out of me from the first note. I was not alone in that reaction. It was a communal, almost tangible spirit that swept the entire chapel at once. I've never felt anything like it. Ever.
  7. The very next Friday I was back in Boulder. It was a tough day for me. It wasn't easy going back to the hustle and bustle of "normal" work on Friday and by that evening I was physically drained. Jaime and I drove into town Friday night to run some errands. The darkness outside, and the hum of my tires on South Boulder Rd. were enough to morph my thoughts into tears. Jaime encouraged me to pull over, but I kept going, and I cried all the way to REI, of all places. Oh boy, how that place reminds me of him. What memories I have of going to REI with my dad as a kid and walking out with the coolest toys, even if it was a simple plastic compass or a few yards of nylon cord. Later, when I got a job there after high school, he would come "shopping" on my shift. I always loved that. Greeting him in my green vest. Eventually he would rib me for liberally using my employee discount on myself and supposedly surpassing his cool gear collection, although I'm sure I never did. Yeah, being back home in Boulder, as if life was supposed to be back to normal, and then going to REI that same day - that was tough.
  8. The next night I read through some letters and cards he sent me while I was serving a mission in Germany for two years (age 19-21). They had been stored in a trunk in Doylestown, PA, but I brought them home with me last week. I went through photos online again. That's was enough. I missed him so much.
  9. And here I am in Bellevue. I've been here for three days and I've been very busy with work, but tonight I opted out of a team / vendor dinner and post production wrap schmoozing and celebrating to spend some time with myself. I walked around downtown, grabbed some dinner, and came back up to my room. I read Francesca's blog post (my sister in law) and I lost again. I'm glad I could spend this time, again, "getting it out of my system."

I know he's cranking away at an important job on the other side of the veil, and I trust in God's wisdom as well as the eternal nature of our family. That faith and knowledge is not shaken by his death. On the contrary, it's strengthened. Even so, I have to remind myself it's okay to grieve. Mourning is love. So bring on the love. I haven't been much of a crier, especially in the last 6 years, but I'm getting used to my eyes stinging now.

Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (D&C 42:45.)
-Russel M. Nelson

I am so lucky to have a stellar family. We will all miss him so much.

Posted via email from ericforsyth's posterous

3 comments:

Dave said...

for me:
1) in Costco when I first heard the news
2) during the service, especially when people got up to share their Mark stories
3) I almost cried after the service talking to you and Team Forsyth, but not quite...
4) driving home...

Sassy Sarah said...

First of all, next time you come to Bellevue and need a time away from your company, give us a call. We'd love to take you rock climbing or hiking in the Great Northwest.

Secondly, this post made me cry. Hearing about your father and the love you have for him (and he for you) is very touching. It's very cathartic to write and "get it out of your system." Thank you for your words. I appreciated them and the reminder they serve that I, too, will be with my father again.

Mendel Family said...

What an incredible post! You have always known how to use your words :) Bellevue is a beautiful place. My dad grew up there. I loved when we had a chance to go with him and he proudly showed us things about his past. Apparently very good men come out of Bellevue :)