"Where did you go?" These were the last words my mother whispered to my father as she quietly wept while bending over him to kiss him for the very last time. You see, today is his birthday. He would have been 76 years old. This is the first time he is not around to celebrate his day. Birthdays were very important to him, in fact, they were more important than any holiday or celebration. They were days that signified birth, a new beginning and hope - a day truly for the "self" and not for others. It is my hope for him that he is resting in peace and pain free. He could never really get to sleep towards the end of his life. Pain, fear, anxiety and frustration took over and managed to beat him down in the end. However, he did not pass away in pain or fear. He merely slipped away, very peacefully, finally getting that well-deserved rest that he really wanted. It was the best I had ever seen him in months and in retrospect, years.
My father was someone who was suppose to live forever. Really. He had that "larger than life" personality that drew people to him and sometimes had them running away. Not to sound disrespectful, this is just how a gregarious, affable, stubborn personality is. To be any other way would simply not be him. He was 75 when he departed, young by current life expectancy charts, but it was a big life. More life than most living 20 years more. Was he finished with life? I don't think so. This is where his frustration set in. But, did he have a life that was full of exploration, love, loss, education, travel, family, friends, failure and success? Oh yes! It was a big life. I think he would want me to not sit and squander ( his words) my life away, re-living or immortalizing his life. Rather, learn and live the life that is mine. My mother and I came upon a writing of author and poet, William Saroyan, amongst his paperwork that he had printed into stationery. We assumed he was going to send it to his friends and family. I renamed it, "Vahak's Credo on Life". No other words sum up his life so eloquently than these very words so simply stated:
You must believe
that as much as death in inevitable,
life is inevitable...
Try as much as possible to be wholly alive,
with all your might.
And when you laugh, laugh like hell,
and when you get angry, get good and angry.
Try to be alive.
You will be dead soon enough."
Every time I read this I feel as though I am standing in front of him or sitting beside him waiting to have a conversation.
The other day, while driving in the hills, where he lived, my husband remarked that it seemed very strange that my father was not here. His presence and light were always commanding attention. Is he just away on a vacation or extended trip somewhere? No. He just went away.
Happy Birthday Dad.