Today it is 12 years since my father took off his human space suit and returned to stardust. It is 12 years since he died. Some years are easier than others. We were so attached to that human space suit, his physical form.
I am grateful to Ram Dass for introducing me to this space suit concept as an explanation of why we grieve. He says we come into this world as babies and put on the human body like a space suit for our time on earth. We forget we are more than the space suit. We become attached to the suit, our own and the suits of others, and, therefore, when it is time to take the suit off, those remaining grieve.
Our grief provides us a connection to the physical form of the person we love. It allows us to hold them longer. To show them how much we cared for them. Although love and grief are easily confused, it is actually love that allows us to forever remain connected to those gone. For, although the space suit can be taken away, love cannot.
My love for my father is never-ending and never-changing. He has had, and will always have my unconditional love; through all my stages of life and beyond.
I love his hands. They are big hands. I love them not for the size or shape of them but for what they created. My father's hands were his expression. It was how he captured us with his stories, how he illustrated complex concepts, and how he emphasised a joke. Dad talked not just with his hands, but through his hands. Even when silent, the way he held or moved his hands expressed his inner state. I miss watching those hands move as he shared his wisdom, but I am so very grateful for the beautiful image my photographer husband captured of Dad and his hands. Printed on a small piece of stone and framed by driftwood, hanging in our hallway.
Dad's hands also created my childhood home and the A-frame cubby house that gave me, my siblings, cousins and many other neighbourhood children, tremendous joy. Dad's hands created the multiple pools we swam in during hot summers, the great snacks he would bring us when we were watching a movie together and the sugar-sweetened medicine he prepared in the middle of the night when we woke up with a temperature, unwell. Dad's hands created many unique inventions, including what we nicknamed the "Garla Gale". It was a giant fan, which cooled our house in the summer evenings. Although the cubby is no longer, and the Garla Gale sold, the house still stands. As do the loving memories.
Dad was a naturalist. He would often interrupt our TV watching to call us outside to see something special like a wasp carrying a giant huntsman across the grass; or simply to look up at the sky and admire the stars. He loved to take us on picnics in the bush and canoeing on the river. He was always pointing out to us the things we missed as we ran around laughing in the sun. We never minded pausing to be amazed by the web of a spider, the colours of a caterpillar or the beauty of the landscape.
Dad was also an avid knowledge gatherer. A reader. A philosopher. He had many favourite sayings, which had great impact in the moments they were shared and when they pop up, as recent as yesterday.
Everything in moderation. / Tomorrow the sun will shine and it will be a brand new day. / Man is a universe; when we die, a universe dies with us.
He was right. When we die, a universe dies with us. A universe of stories, memories and more. When Dad died, we lost many future memories to be made together with him physically there. We lost any stories or memories he had not yet shared with us. We lost hugs, and moments to sit in awe listening to him express life through his hands.
What we have not lost, however, is a universe of love. His love for me is always around me. My love for him is always in my heart.