“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”Anne Lamott
Today marks the two year anniversary of my father’s passing. It still feels as if someone else’s father died, not mine. Mine will walk through the door and be as strong, as competent, as loving, and as stubborn as he was in his prime. No matter how long we have with a loved one, later, it never seems like enough time. I feel this way even though I was lucky enough to have him in my life for over forty years. I feel at peace that he doesn’t have to live through the insanity that is 2020, yet I also wish he were still here so we could talk about what’s going on in the world.
This is the price I pay for love.
C.S. Lewis once said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.” My mother is having a rough time, still mourning for her spouse and anchor that she lived and loved and fought with for fifty-four years. She turned to me the other morning and asked brokenly, “Is it really better to have loved and lost, if the pain is this bad?” I didn’t answer, knowing she just needed to cry and talk her feelings out.
But I have wondered the same thing in the past – whether the price of love is too steep. Whether this pain – so different from the raw wound of two years ago and yet it can still bring me to my knees – is worth the joy and the love and the laughter that my father brought into my life and the lives of my mother and siblings.
The alternative is to live a life alone and unloved. Without community. Without support. Without encouragement. To live that way – stoic, impenetrable – can rob a person of empathy and compassion. And I was not made for such a safe, invulnerable and airless life. I don’t think any of us are. I think we are meant to be vulnerable and loved and filled with joy and compassion and empathy and yes, ultimately, to suffer the pain of grief and loss.
I can affirm this even though my father was by no means perfect.
Throughout his ninety-four years on this earth, he sometimes said things that broke my heart, even hurt my soul. Things I now discuss in therapy. But I wouldn’t be haunted by those few hurtful words if I didn’t love him. If I wasn’t vulnerable. Two years later, I no longer look for the end date to grief. There is none. It changes, certainly. I no longer feel like I’m going to have a heart attack, like I did that first week. I cry when I think about him, or when I notice something he planted or built around the house, or when I hear my cousins accented English on a video chat or see the one cousin that could be my father’s twin, they look so much alike. But I also accept that the pain I feel now is part of the love I was lucky to be surrounded by for the last forty-five years. And no matter what faults he may have had, I have never once doubted my father’s love for me.
And having been so very loved by a flawed, yet such an incredible man, I can say that the price of love will never be too steep for me. I will always pay it.
A member of the Water Street Writers, Mikaela D’Eigh is a writer, poet, gardener, mental wellness advocate, and a lover of Scotch, K-Pop, and KDramas. She writes about anything and everything, using all the crayons in the box. Currently, she lives out in the country with two Egyptian gods disguised as cats, a herd of cows, and the occasional flock of wild turkeys.
Image © Mikaela D’Eigh