My children crashed back into my life last night like a pair of drunken sailors on shore leave and after an evening and morning of angry carousing (hugging Mommy, yelling at Mommy, demanding candy, ignoring Mommy, hugging Mommy again) things have started to settle down and I am finally moving into a space where I will be letting go of the identity that I have wrapped myself in these past two weeks (Cathy, daughter of Steven, who has died) and re-embracing the identities that I set aside in order to do this work (Catherine, wife; Catherine, mother; Catherine, whose other life goes on).
This is a hard thing. I have cherished being Cathy these past long days, cherished being, again, Daddy’s girl, albeit Daddy’s girl in a way that I never thought I’d be. I have gone back into my childhood, my girlhood, my youth, my early adulthood, my life – but as a new woman, as a new kind of adult, a kind of grown-up woman, grown-up person, who is forged through loss and grief, the kind of grown-up person who is stronger than she’d ever thought she’d be. I have gone back into my life, my past, as a new woman, and found beauty there, a tremendous, powerful beauty, a beauty that was always there, a beauty that I treasured but never really understood, until now. My father gave me that beauty. I have only been truly able appreciate that – truly, deeply, in my soul appreciate that – through his death, and through this work that he has compelled me to do. I am so grateful. Still aching to the very tips of my toes with grief, but still: grateful.
Tomorrow I – we – say goodbye, formally. I’ve been saying goodbye all along, and will continue to say goodbye – my whole life from this point on will be, in some respects, a goodbye – but tomorrow will mark the moment when I announce my goodbye, when I stand with my family and bid Dad farewell, and then clasp their hands and remind myself that life goes on.
And then I will bend myself back to this work of closing the final chapter of my father’s life. As Catherine – as Catherine-always-Cathy-always-daughter-always his-always her own – but better. Stronger. Strong.
My dad would be proud.