My heart must reach the bottom of my grief before it can turn toward the light. It knows this, but it hates the dark, and refuses to go down, clinging to ledges for weeks or months at a time, keeping me running and waiting at the surface. Running in my war paint, my face turned helplessly away from the event that I cannot stop, weaponless against the passing time, wearing this stubborn mask without tears.
Yesterday I visited Dad and found him greatly weakened, sleepy, with his humor and spark dimmed. He asked about work, and the recent changes in the company, and so we talked shop for several minutes, though it tired him. I realized later that it might have been the last time I ever do that with my Dad. My heart was quiet while I was there, but during the solitary drive home, through the falling snow and the deepening gloom of evening, I felt a pressure build against my chest.
Later that evening, after dinner and chores were done, my heart lost its grip of the slope, and the pressure sent it hurtling backwards, falling into the dark. My painted face at the surface caught a glimpse of life without my father, and it froze, still unable to shed tears, struck by the loss, feeling an emptiness.
And meanwhile the normal events of my life continue, and they give me a fierce, exalted, primitive joy. On my road home I had passed a hilly field of black angus, with tiny calves frolicking in their first snowfall, dark gamboling shapes against the spotless white, and I laughed out loud. The stark light and dark of life and death casts things into sharp immediacy, and the shadows are colored, painting my face, dying my heart now blue, now purple.
The tears will come later, or I will paint them into being. I am waiting for the falling to stop, and for my heart to cower and cringe again at some darker, deeper level of the pit, though I sense it will still be far from the bottom.