“I focus on the pain / The only thing that’s real” – Nine Inch Nails
Most of us think of death as something horrible. The end of something really good (life) that cannot possibly be, by itself (death), something positive. But if you believe at all in the idea of death not being a finite end to a person’s soul – that’s to say that you believe a person’s being does not end with death and somehow lives on – I believe you can look for the positive in death.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t hurt. My father, Louis George Brosha, is “gone” from a physical “I can see you when I walk into your loving room and touch you and laugh with you” perspective. I miss that. I miss his often painfully awful jokes, which had gotten so repetitive that you could almost entirely predict a conversation with him before it started. I miss the experiences with him that will always remain vivid and positive in my memory: driving around random backroads with him, simply exploring. Hunting, even if we didn’t have any success. Making dykes and damns and rivers in the spring run-off trickling down the gravel/muddy road in front of our house. Laughing. Playing Trivial Pursuit and getting pissed off at him when he would answer whatever question he knew, regardless of what team’s “turn” it was.
But, at the same time, I’ve always believed in people living on forever. That souls do not simply disappear. Of a great inter-connectedness of our universe and that whatever spark we have within us is not simply extinguished in physical death.
Positive has come out of his death, even during the times of extreme pain in those final days and moments. I will forever be appreciative of how his death brought my siblings and I closer during that week. We had drifted to various ends of the country over the past decade and like many families, didn’t connect all together nearly as often as we “should”. For a week or so, circumstance thrust us back into confined spaces where we went through every possible emotion: sadness, disbelief, anger, laughter, joy, and love. I’m glad for that. Likewise my father’s side of the family – many whom I haven’t seen in years. It was amazing having the chance to reconnect with so many of them.
In his death it allowed us to remember and celebrate all the positive of the man, rather than just focus on his shortcomings – which many of us (I’m looking at myself, here) tend to do in life. He had fought multiple sclerosis for the past twenty years and although he had a positive attitude towards such a debilitating disease, it changed him in many ways. I’ll be honest – sometimes resented him for it. But in that period that we were waiting for him to officially pass, and in the week after, you tend to remember all the good in a person’s life, rather than the negative. I’m really grateful for that.
In our final goodbyes I found myself doing something I haven’t done on probably 25 years with my father: with tears in my eyes, I kissed him. I kiss my little dudes, my own boys, all the time. I shower my little angel of a girl so much that she pushes me away, annoyed. I think nothing of it. In fact, I think it would be so unusual for me not to kiss them. So why had I thought so differently about affection with my own father? All I know is that it felt great getting rid of that barrier in those final hours that I had built for years, if not decades.
I’ve never liked the idea of the modern obituary, or at least the majority of them as we read them in the newspapers: they essentially come down to a date of birth, death, a listing of offspring and perhaps the pre-deceased. But that’s essentially it. What does that quick paragraph or two really tell you about a person’s life and how they lived it? Does it tell you about their accomplishments? What they loved in life? How they loved?
I’ve always said, “when I die, let my life be more than a series of dates”. Otherwise, really, what’s the point? If no one remembers you 100 years from now beyond a coldly and emotionless record – marked in a notebook or newspaper – that simply says DOB and Passed Away On….what’s the point?
There’s a lot of drawbacks to the modern “Facebook”-era, but I think one of the strengths of the digital era is that more of our lives are getting recorded. Voices are being given to the previously unknown. When my own children want to know who my father – their grandfather – was….images, stories, and memories will be easier to come by. My own grandfathers I know very little about. I remember my Dad’s dad only vaguely. My Mom’s dad I know next to nothing about (he passed away the year I was born). When I pass along myself, my own children will probably roll their eyes when they realize just how much of my life has been recorded. They’ll probably wish for the days of a simple newspaper obituary.
To make a long story short, here’s what I would call a visual obituary of my father’s life. In life, and in death. For I think there’s beauty in both – death, to me, doesn’t have to be ‘horrible’. But first, a quick rundown of who my father was, at least through my eyes:
- A teacher
- A father
- A builder of campfires
- A lover of laughter
- A gentle soul
- A man who hated swearing
- A hunter and fisher
- A fighter
- A friend
- A jokster (how ever corny they were)
- A brother
- A son
- A grandfather
- A good man
I miss him. A lot. Here’s a tribute to him in the medium that is closest to my heart.