It was still fresh in my mind when I woke up that morning. It wasn’t a bad or sad dream. In fact, it was one of the sweetest dreams I’ve had in a while.
I was sharing a chocolate ice-cream cone (that wasn’t why it was a sweet dream) with my father. And for some reason, I remember that it cost $50. That’s all I recalled when I woke up. But that was enough to trigger the tears.
As I brushed my teeth, it hit me why I was crying. The moment I opened my eyes, I knew that the joy I felt in my dream of sharing an ice cream with my father was not going to come to pass in reality.
It has been two and a half years since my father passed away. I thought I had finally got used to his absence but that morning proved otherwise. And although it was not the first time I dreamed of him, seeing his face and smile in the dream made me realize how much I miss him—and that I am still grieving.
I remember how surreal everything felt in the weeks after my father left us. I thought I had lost my capability to feel anymore. Nothing interested me, made me happy, or frustrated me. Aside from an underlying feeling of gut-wrenching loss, I was emotionally numb. Life felt meaningless without my father and the future ahead felt like a big, black hole. There were even times I wished Jesus would quickly return or that my mother, brother, and I could suddenly die together so we could all be reunited in heaven and not have to go through life without my father.
But God used time and routine to sustain us. Gradually, I began experiencing everyday emotions again: happiness, anger, frustration, jealousy, fear, etc. I felt happy after a good run. I got angry when I had to do extra work because of another person’s shoddy job. I was frustrated when I took the wrong bus and had to waste time. And so on.
Life resumed normalcy and I felt like I had completely accepted the fact that my father was no longer around. It became less difficult talking about happy memories we shared and looking at photographs of him didn’t automatically trigger the shedding of tears. Even commemorating his death anniversary and his birthday (just a couple of weeks ago) seemed to get easier.
But like that morning’s episode showed, the grief I thought had long disappeared had never left. All this while, it had just been dormant, and when I least expected it, it erupted.
On the one hand, I’m baffled by how intense the feeling of loss still is to me. A pendant, which a friend had given to me at my father’s funeral, had these words engraved on it: “This too shall pass.” I originally thought “this” was supposed to mean grief; now I’m not so sure.
But on the other hand, I’m somewhat relieved it’s still lingering around. Because when it comes, it puts all my priorities, worries, and concerns in perspective. The little irritation I felt earlier over something a friend said, or the envy towards someone who achieved something I hadn’t, all become really insignificant and silly non-issues. Grief serves as a very real and tangible reminder that at the end of the day, there is nothing more important in our earthly lives than the relationships we have—with God and with others.
In my moments of intense grief, I am reminded that loss is a rite of passage that everyone has to go through at some point. Everyone will face pain and loss of varying degrees. At the same time, loss is also a stark reminder that there is something terribly wrong with our lives. Death and loss are not meant to be “normal” occurrences; they are the effects of sin in a world that has deviated from how God originally intended.
Also, it’s a sombre reminder that life is short and what I do now counts for eternity. It nudges me to keep focusing on the things that are important but not urgent, instead of the things that are urgent but not important. I’m also motivated to live out my faith and share about Jesus to my loved ones before my own time on earth is up.
These days, I’m learning to accept grief as part and parcel of my life. When it strikes (and I’m sure it will again), I want to be fully cognizant of the fact that this pain is temporary because of what Jesus has done. I will see my father again in glory and till then, I want to live my life well.