Many years ago, my dad woke up, started the coffee, fed his dog and his heart stopped. Just like that, no fuss. He was gone without even so much as a goodbye. I searched through records, had conversations with coroners and combed through family history. I’ve come no closer to understanding the workings of a heart or how it’s affected by time.
He was not a religious man. It’s something I remember trying to convince him about as a little girl. I imagined myself going to heaven and he did not imagine himself, much, after death. I always thought it was sad that when he died it would be final. We would never see each other again. [Side Note: This cannot go left unsaid. He would have made a joke here, about spending eternity with me. It’s probably why he died in the first place. To get away. He’s laughing, I promise.]
When he died, I questioned everything I thought I understood. I scoured the Bible. I went to church and I searched for answers that are not to be found on this side of living. I looked to those wiser than I about what happens when hearts stop working. In all of that wondering, I came no closer to a definable truth. Except that time changes things in indiscernible ways. Hearts heal and they break, heal and break. And we can’t decide what others believe.
His death made things different in my life. We inherited his childhood home, but I can’t ask him questions about my own childhood. I live in his context, but don’t get the benefit of his perspective. I’ve inherited life skills that I can’t explain nor can I ask him why. I talk to him a lot, but he only answers in my memories.
I don’t understand how life is one way today and wholly changed tomorrow. I am less sad that his heart stopped working. That’s what time does. But it doesn’t stop the beating of our own hearts. My heart gets busier at this time of year. The weight of it reminds me I’m alive and present. It’s something to be celebrated, the intricacies of a heart, even when it breaks to do so.
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