I was reading Nietzsche on the night you died. I had not slept for what felt like days. I did not yet know that our previous conversation hours before would be our last.
You said to me, as you always had, to “never stop exploring. This world is boundless. Never limit yourself from growing.”
You had said this before. I always listened to every word. This time, there was urgency in your voice. I knew what it meant, but I could not acknowledge.
I said, “Okay.”
I was half in thought about you and half in a daydream about this austere German philosopher when I crossed that sentence:
One must have chaos within you to give birth to the dancing star.
Growing up, Nietzsche was verboten. I was protesting this turn of events that was taking you away, thrusting me into a new life for which I felt wholly unprepared. Reading this radical little book I had meekly checked out from the library was the best I could conjure as my subtle act of contrarianism.
I read through the night until sleep overtook me. Shortly after dawn, the phone call came: “He’s gone.”
I said, “Thank you.” I hung up.
I looked at the ceiling, beyond, somewhere out there, and said, “Thank you.”
Later that morning, I suited up and began my duties. I did what I had to do. All eyes were now on me.
I want you to know that every moment since that morning, I have shown up. Even when I did not know how much further I could push… I have pushed.
I have given more than I knew was possible to give. I know now there are still vast reservoirs yet to be tapped. I do not know where it ends.
You taught me what it meant to be an artist. You were the first major person in my life who gave me permission to be myself. I want you to know I have done my very best. I was in awe of you, not only for who you were, but for what you became despite the severity of what this world put you through.
Choosing this path of growth has cost me. I think you knew this was going to happen, and yet, it could not be avoided.
Often I wonder what you would say if you could see me now. Despite the loss, I would never go back. I would never ever go back.
I have also never felt such peace, freedom, and bliss. I will never numb it out again.
For the pains, let it transform me into a full human being. Let it settle the score for all my previous unkindness.
For the joys, may I accept another human being as divine. May I become a person who turns no one away.
May I give to at least one other person the love and the hope you gave to me.
Written many years after the death of a grandfather.
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