Time is a funny thing– the way we watch it, the way we keep it, the way we measure the significance and depth of something based on how much of it has passed (love seems more credible if it’s lasted over years, decades. Your skill–or relevance–in the workplace can often be based simply on how many years you’ve sat at your desk.
After my grandfather died, after Benny died, I spent the entire year following thinking “this time last year…” This time last year, my grandfather was sitting in his favorite blue chair at Christmas, watching us open our presents. This time last year, Benny was on the porch, sunning herself by the back door. In that first year I was able to still believe they were closer to life than death because the days when they were still alive were still close to me. This brought comfort and pain. In some ways, I dreaded and longed for the first anniversary of their death to come and pass. I thought it would somehow make me understand the finality of their passing. It would let me be able to let go. It would let me distance myself from the sadness of knowing that they were really gone.
I can’t explain why that first anniversary was such an important milestone for me–maybe it was my way of proving I could get through the rest of the years without them? Maybe it felt like the end of a journey: I felt accomplished because for 365 days, I was able to walk alone, without them, carrying the pain of their absence. For 365 days, I was able to wake up, dress myself, eat, and go about my life. It was not always easy, for sure, but I did it. And there I was, a year older, a year wiser, with the new-found knowledge that I could survive it.
Today other members of my family have reached that milestone. They have walked a year in the shadow of the man they loved and relied on. They knew him as father, as son, as husband, and all the other terms we can only call a very select few in our lives. Today they realize that they have survived this first marker in line of others to come and that, although difficult and painful and some days seemingly impossible, they are able to continue living (probably the most comforting and cruel thing about death).
I hope that today, in the midst of the pain and the feelings of “what if” and the memories, there is some comfort. I hope the love of family and friends can carry them through the darkness. I hope that even though today may be dark, that most of their other days will be filled with life, and love, and light.
And although I might not be telling them this every day, although we might not be incredibly close, they are always in my thoughts, always in my heart. And so is the man they loved so dearly.
Because ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind. Or forgotten.