Almost exactly a year ago, our fridge stopped working. It was days before our self-catered wedding and the fridge was already stocked with all the food for our reception, including the layers of our wedding cake in the freezer. Not exactly a good time for a fridge failure! After a small amount of panic, I realized I’d never cleaned the air intakes. I wrestled the fridge out of its nook by myself, got everything cleaned up, and shoved the fridge back where it belonged. The fridge started cooling down again and everything turned out fine. I was pretty proud of myself and emailed my parents to thank them for raising me as a thinking individual capable of dealing with sticky situations.
As I wrote in my last post, I learned of my father’s passing on the last day of my recent trip to Australia. I was completely alone in Sydney, my only available links to home a travel phone that immediately ran out of international minutes and a public wifi network with limited connectivity. After using my iPad to talk to my mom, the boat CO’s wife, the Red Cross, and my mom again, I called my grandmother. One of the first things she asked me was “Are you okay?” I told her “I have to be okay, don’t I?” Even though it felt like my world was ending, I couldn’t sit on the Sydney sidewalk and cry until someone else took care of everything. I had to get myself back to Hawaii and then to the rest of my family because no one else would or could do it for me.
I like to think the way I handled that day was the ultimate tribute to my dad and how I was raised. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I am proud that I got the phone situation sorted out, spoke to the Red Cross (so they could get word to my husband on deployment), dealt with airlines to book my flights from Hawaii to the East Coast, and got myself to the airport on time using public transit. There was lots of crying, and it was frequently noisy, but I did everything I needed to and, eventually, got myself back “home” to South Carolina.
I am still crying randomly, and everything is far too fresh and raw for me to have spent meaningful time in meditation about my dad’s death or anything like that, but I immediately realized that my life will be different forever without him. I also saw how easily I could let myself be consumed by circumstance, and I consciously refused to be an orchid. Orchids are beautiful, but fragile. I am not a fleeting hothouse orchid, but a grape vine. Vignerons prune their vines vigorously, and even withhold water or plant vines in inhospitable ground because the resulting plants are stronger and more resilient, the grapes more flavorful.
I don’t think I think I must be “too strong” to grieve, but I refuse to be consumed by a sense of loss. Okay, so some minutes do slip past me, but I will not loose days or weeks to sorrow. I’m sure some part of me will never “get over” it, and that’s fine. My dad taught me many things during his life, but I hope his unexpected death will help me live my own life more fully and with purpose. It sounds cliche, but we truly never know how much time any of us has. There is not enough time to delay your dreams or ignore your passion. If you’ve stuck it out this far and are still reading my uncharacteristically personal post, I hope this is the message you take with you; Don’t be afraid to live out loud and don’t let yourself be an orchid when difficulties come your way.