January 21, 1970. It was a typical Wednesday and we got up to get ready for school. I have vague memories of what happened earlier that morning, but I do have clear memories of my mother telling us to go see my sister Monique who was waiting for my 5-year-old brother and me to join her in her bed.
We snuggled in, and as best as she could, having just a short while before learned of the news, she explained to us that our father had passed away. I was 9 years old.
Where most of the following days were sketchy at best in this 59-year-old mind, I do have strong vivid detailed snippets of specific moments. I remember writing a letter (which I have to this day) and asking the priest who stopped by the house why angels didn’t have any bodies.
I was very much involved with our church, not only as part of the children’s choir but also as one of the first few girls to help serve mass. I loved going to church and I always saw it as a house of quietness. I was a student at a school run by nuns and was proud to have had my first communion a few years my father’s passing.
Reading back the letter I wrote, and I have no issues sharing it with the world, I realized I had a very strong belief in heaven. At least, I had learned my catholicism lessons well. What is very interesting, is that I could not actually write the word “died or dead” unless it was in parenthesis. I’m sure many therapists and psychologists would have a term for such behaviour.
At 9 years of age, I did not speak a word of English, therefore the letter is in French. I will, however, attempt to parts I feel relevant to how I saw my father’s passing.
“Oh my father, he was well on earth, he raised us like Jesus was raised by Joseph and Mary. I loved him with all my heart and he was the joy of our family. He was handsome, lovable and never did he argue with mom. I feel he trained us well to love each other and do always do what must be done. It was on the 21 of January that he (died). But he is always with us. I know well that his SOUL is with GOD. I think of him every night, he speaks to me in my heart. He tells me that when I need something I need to ask it of him. At night I dream: He is with us always and watches us from high above the sky. Because dad loves us always even if he is (dead).”
I believe, even at the young age of 9 that my spiritual upbringing helped me through the initial years after his passig.
50 years without my father – it seems unreal to think it has been so very long. However, I can say that there are few days when I don’t think of him. I missed him just as much during my big life events, my wedding, the birth of our daughters, seeing my girls grow up as during the small, little moments of everyday life.
I wonder how my life would have been had he lived past his 45th year. Would he have been the disciplinary one, would he have left me to spend three summers in Spain in my late teens, would he have encouraged my choice of career, would he have, would he have, would he have…
Tomorrow I will focus on the beautiful memories I do recall, and of those, I will remember to be grateful that I had at least those 9 years with him. So many people live without ever having known their parents, I had enough days to understand that he was a loving wonderful dad. I hold a strong belief that somehow, one day, we will be together again.
Je t’aime toujours, Popa!