It’s been thirteen years since his father passed, and Eirik Rogers is still learning how to say goodbye.
This past weekend I stopped by the cemetery where my father rests. He’s been gone for thirteen years, but on this visit I noticed something different. A large surface root conveyed from a tree not ten feet away travelled across his grave.
When my father died, I feverishly thought about loopholes in the celestial logic that might bring him back—a childish conceit that refused to cede the possibility my own thoughts could conjure up a better reality. Intellectually I knew the truth. Yet though my mind eventually accepted the finality of his death like a good soldier, my heart secretly kept its solemn commitment to search for that loophole. I did not dissuade it, and thus implicitly agreed to indulge the delusion. But now I see the thick, barked root running between us, possessing him and mocking my defiance. The earth in its unyielding tendril grip has claimed him and nothing I can do or think will ever change that.
My father loved trees. He could identify most of them by the branch patterns and the leaves. He often joked to me that you could always tell a dogwood tree by its bark. The furniture he crafted from exotic hardwoods graced our home—beautiful tables, cabinets, chairs and boxes. He was a doctor by profession. But when the work day was through, the same loving hands that kept his patients healthy would breathe beauty and life back into rough gray boards of hardwood. And he also crafted us—his children—with the same love. He was all about life in everything he did.
I still can’t imagine him gone—then I realize he may not be. As the roots slowly and delicately encircle him deep in the soil, folding him into their arboreal realm, another invisible root from that tree has reached out, gently plying my hold on defiant and impossible hopes. My heart breaks its promise—then just breaks—as I surrender my search. After thirteen years, I am still learning how to say goodbye. Over the bed of soft green grass beneath which he lays, I listen to him whisper through the leaves in the gentle breeze, telling me it will be OK.
Image of a blooming Dogwood courtesy of Shutterstock