September 26th will always be a strange day. My family is (and was) not one to hugely celebrate specific holidays. We celebrate the quiet moments. So on a day of such peculiar weight, we were tempted to continue “life as usual” — go to work, be around those we love, eat, sleep, start a new year.
But the embodiment of grief quickly caught up to us. That was one thing I never realized — how simply exhausting grief can be, and how easily the body remembers. The final month of my dad’s life was perhaps the most intentional month of my family’s life. My mom, dad, and I awoke each morning with a clear purpose — to do whatever the hell we felt like. We made goals that we posted on our fridge of what we wanted to accomplish: walk down the block, watch a giants game, cook favorite foods, go to a James Taylor concert (which, thanks to our lovely friends Jess and Vickie, we were able to do). The list was simple. Some days we checked things off the list, other days we simply sat, read, and visited with friends and family.
As the days dwindled, I remember how peculiar it was to step out into the world. I flew back for classes for a few days a week, but otherwise stayed very much in the haven of our home. One day, I remember fetching an early morning coffee for my mom and I. As I placed my order, I felt like I was speaking through molasses and time literally stood still. Here I was, chatting with the barista, as if this were just any day. It was both comforting and haunting to realize the unspeakable worlds people leave behind them every day. What a paralyzing feeling though, knowing there was no space for the words I wanted to say.
The memories of that month weigh heavily on my mom and I. It was a month, much like that coffee shop morning, of surreal and slow-moving moments. And when you live each day on a strange anticipatory precipice, the body remembers. And the body has an equally hard time letting go. The day after, the 27th, was the strangest day of my life. Much like in the preparation before any big event, you sometimes forget what you will do or feel the moment it’s over. Though we had long imagined the world we would live in when he was gone, we never imagined that day. And the simple act of waking up in a world without someone is one of the most universal heartaches.
The second my mom and I woke up, we knew we had to go to the ocean. So we jumped in the car and drove to Half Moon Bay. We ate breakfast at a usual place, walked along the beach, and picked up a few pumpkins. We laughed, cried, stared into the abyss, and drove back. It was lovely. So, this year, in lieu of our typical “life as usual” routine, we’re heading to Half Moon Bay for the night, and living an entirely intentional day.