Papa, Can You Hear Me?

« Do you see the skies above us? » he said in a gentle tone. I raised my head up high, my eyes peering into the endless space painted with shining stars and figures. I could feel their reflections sparkling within my gaze as a wondrous smile crept up my face. His arms slowly embraced me as his warmth made me feel safe in this endless painting which I felt like seeing for the first time. « Just remember, no matter how many times you feel bedazzled by the endless wonders and opportunities, be sure to keep on smiling in wonder and not feel frightened. »
 I didn’t know much about the words he said, nor did I ponder over them. All I knew was that I was safe and that my world was just like that sky, sparkling with shiny stars and brimming with unknown opportunities, endless in its imagination. I’ll never forget the warmth I felt, his arms around me…

Gravestones always seem so cold, no matter the epitaph written on them. The words could be kind and filled with love yet the stone made them feel stern and obligatory. “Loving husband and father,” it said, yet somehow it felt sad to think a person’s life could be reduced to a single sentence on a headstone. No matter how old I get, I still feel helpless when it comes to loss, whether I was six and lost my pet rabbit, thirteen when grandma died or at the age of twenty-one, when my father passed away. Many people used to tell me how much I resembled my mother in appearance but my father in character and spirit. From then on, they used the past tense.

It’s odd how I’d always been a bit of a cry-baby, how my father would comfort me, wiping me tears away and convincing me all would be all right, but this time, I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry when the doctors told mom that he wouldn’t be waking up. I didn’t cry when my mom turned away, sobbing silent tears and hiding her grief. I didn’t cry when my family and friends came to offer their respects and condolences to my late father. I did not cry when they lowered his coffin into the earth… But the most painful thing of it all, I did not cry when I wanted to the most. It wasn’t much that I didn’t want to cry or was trying to keep strong. Of course I wanted to be there for mom and be strong for my family in these hard times, but I too had the right to grief. I too had the right to feel helpless and lost with the death of my father. I had the right to feel pain yet I couldn’t cry. I lost the ability to do so, never to return again. Dad used to tell me that crying could be a showing of strength, of opening up your vulnerability to someone and simply being you at your inner core near someone took real courage, he used to say. Still, I could not cry… I hated not being able to cry. It’s like when I sat hours without end in the shower, watching the water pour over my body, trickling from the shower head yet I could not feel the warmth. It’s like wanting to scream but every time I open my mouth, no sound comes out. It’s like the fading of a warm memory… I still feel the warmth from those arms but cannot feel those arms around me anymore…

I wonder, dad, are you now too up in that sky? Because when I look at the stars at night, all I can see is you and all I can hear is your voice reminding me not to look down when faced with pain but to look right ahead. It’s your warmth that still keeps me from feeling lonely when I look up that sky, wondering if now you too have become one of those stars which kept me wondering as a child but now serve me as a reminder of my resilience.
 Papa, can you hear me? Are you watching me as I make my way through life, guiding me by arranging the stars in the path to follow? Are you shining down your light on me, hoping I might find myself within it, strengthened by the fact that no matter which sky I see or stars I gaze at, it is you that stares back at me?

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