This was originally published in my monthly newsletter, Notes from MP. I make it a point to not publish my newsletter essays anywhere, because I like to think of it as something exclusive just for my subscribers. This time, though, I’m making an exception, mostly because I can’t quite bring myself to write another piece about my dad this year. Today is the actual anniversary of his death and I couldn’t not share anything about him, so here goes. I hope you understand.
I don’t remember a lot from that day, truth be told. When I try to recollect what happened, I find myself picking up shards of memory and trying to figure out how they all piece together. The jagged edges cut my fingers, the pieces don’t fit together, and there are gaping holes in what I manage to recall.
I stopped trying to remember for a while, to be honest. It hurt too damn much to even try.
And so over time everything became fuzzy, like I was viewing it through a blurry lens. Certain things stood out more than others — of course there are parts I will never forget, no matter how old I may live to be — but the rest faded away.
But every now and then, I discover some information reminding me that even if I remembered everything from that day, there were parts of it I would never know for myself.
Like how he had a dying wish.
* * *
“Dying wish” sounds very dramatic, and in many cases it is. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that in this case I don’t know it could be considered a literal dying wish. I mean, maybe it was. It depends on how people interpret “dying wish,” I guess. To my knowledge, it was not a dramatic statement made on his deathbed. That much I’m positive about. But I do know that he moved heaven and earth before he died to make his dying wish possible, and perhaps that does make his dying wish a literal one. He devoted the final months, weeks, and days of his life to setting his affairs in order so that his dying wish could be fulfilled (and, of course, that his loved ones were taken care of after he was gone), and, well, I don’t think anything about that makes his dying wish any less literal than one uttered on a deathbed.
* * *
When I was a teenager, I blamed him for uprooting my life yet again with this “dying wish” business.
I’m not proud of it, but we all have things from our teenage years we’re not proud of, don’t we?
I begrudged him for interfering with my life, a parental right that I felt he had revoked by dying. What did it matter anyway, I thought, about whether or not his dying wish was fulfilled? He was dead. He wouldn’t know. So who cared?
Like I said, I’m not proud of it.
* * *
When I look back now, everything in my life — everything — can be traced back to when his dying wish was fulfilled.
That is not an exaggeration.
I lead a very happy, contented, and fortunate life. I have a loving family and supportive friends. I have the best boyfriend. I have a job in my desired field that I’m good at (and enjoy). I have a cozy apartment in the middle of this playground we call the nation’s capital.
I don’t know if I would have any of this, or at least in the form that I do, had we not ensured that his dying wish was fulfilled.
* * *
I want to ask him, always, if this was what he had envisioned for us after his death. How specific were his thoughts, his plans for our future without him? How far in time did his intentions go? Was he thinking short-term only, or was he thinking forever and ever, as long as his beloved wife and children lived?
I can’t help but think it was the latter, but I can never be sure.
“He would be so proud of you,” is something I’ve heard all my life. On the easier days, I smile graciously and say thank you. On the harder days, I would give anything to hear those words from him, himself.
I can never ask him anything, of course, because he’s not here. But even if he was here, his dying wish is the one thing I could never, will never, ask him about.
Because if I could ask, that would mean he hadn’t died, and then he never would’ve made a dying wish.