In the past three years, I had some traumatic events happen to me and I lost a bit of myself and I lost balance. In an effort to find, to re-balance, and to repair myself, I traveled through a handful of countries in Africa. I found my answer in the most unlikely of places, in a conversation with a Masai Warrior. It is the answer that resonates the most with me, though I don’t think it will with others.
Today marks a year since my dad died and I’ve decided I will never feel like I did when he was alive. Time doesn’t heal everything. Some experiences in your life will just leave your soul crippled. Just as with a physical ailment, you can learn to get by, but you will never be the way you were before the injury. The past doesn’t change, it follows you, and influences everything you do. It presses on your heart, sometimes soliciting joy, sometimes sadness, sometimes shame, sometimes fear. It’s unchangeable and final. And it influences your present and future.
When something truly bad happens to you that knocks your metaphorical soul off it’s feet, it may not get up without permanent injury. There is a strange emptiness in my picture of life, a void that should be occupied, but it isn’t. Something is wrong with the fabric of my life, it is missing a huge chunk of threads.
Not a day has gone by where I haven’t cried. I know that won’t be the case every day, but that is how it has been so far. Everyday things are triggers for me. That shirt may mean nothing to you, but it reminds me of my dad. That truck may mean nothing to you, but it reminds me of my dad. More so, it reminds me that my dad isn’t here anymore.
Many people at this point would want to run in and correct my discouraging conclusion to this aspect of life. They worry that I am not dealing with things “correctly,” though that term is inherently subjective. I went to private therapy, I went to group therapy, and I have read books about grieving. I have listened to loads of people tell me what I should be feeling and what I will feel one day. I have heard all the comforts people chose to believe about the afterlife. None of this works for me. I wish could follow all those healing paths that everyone lovingly outlined for me.
Maybe it would be easier if the year and a half leading up to his death wasn’t filled with a maelstrom of worst case scenarios all happening at once. For the first time in my life, I was directly affected by the evil that I knew existed, but never knew personally. I had to stand by my father and listen to his cries and watch him convulse in pain and hear him plead to me daily to just kill him because he couldn’t bear to live like that anymore. This was all a result of gross mistreatment by people who spent a chunk of their life and a substantial amount of their money learning how to “care” for people. I don’t know how those people went home at night and said I love you to their loved ones after what they did to my dad.
And then there is the worst discovery of all, that maybe evil doesn’t know it’s evil, that all of us are only one small decision away from being it, and we’re all capable of it. When traumatic events happen, people lose themselves and instead of binding together to support each other, they turn and tear one another apart. They lose strength and fall apart at the seams. I lost family members and friends, and even saw the ugly parts within my own heart.
I saw how our world could be cruel and uncaring, and felt powerless to it. I didn’t know how to fight for my dad, and I trusted too many people who didn’t care. Then I went to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia and I met some people who hands down had seen and experienced worse than me, but, while the pain and the destruction was clearly evident in their eyes, they were steadfastly persevering with an abundance of hope. With all the knowledge of how cruel life can be, they marched on knowing that it can be better, well at least for those that I met. I’m sure at some point, life can get the better of us all, but for the few I met, they were not beat down.
I still have hope in life, I’m still the annoying optimist, and I’m still generally happy, but my soul is injured. One night in Tanzania when I met a Masai warrior, he told me he lost his father. His father died in his arms as he was carrying him to help. I shared that I lost mine and that it was hard. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It is the way of life.”
And there it was, the one thing I needed to hear, my answer. It may seem simple and obvious, but it is strange how understanding can be lost in times of emotional struggle. This warrior lives in the heart of the Serengeti, where animals struggle and die and humans are at the mercy of the wild and nature. It is the clearest of views of the life cycle, and I finally saw the piece of life I had naively ignored.
Good and bad things will happen to you indiscriminately. Things will begin and things will end. You will create a past that can only be with you in memories. Things will change and you will have to learn to accept that and let go of what will never be again. Good and bad things are in your future, and the cycle repeats. It’s not easy. It is the struggle; “It is the way of life.” But if you are always grateful for the good things, no matter how minute they are, it will all be worth it.
My dad may be gone, but I got to have time with him, good times and bad times, and I will always cherish him as the best dad I could have ever asked for. He was by no means perfect, none of us are, but he loved me and wanted me to be the happiest I could be and did everything in his power to see that through. I’m sad I will never get to hear him talk to me again or hug him, but I am forever grateful for the moments I did get.
One favorite series of memories I have about my father is all the times he wore hats that I brought back for him from places I had traveled.
Share this Post
“Sometimes the hardest part about life is letting go of what will never be again” – Brandy Little