I remember when he lost his dad.

I’d already moved out of home. I remember seeing him and hugging him. 

“I’m sorry,” I whispered to him.

I saw it in his eyes for a moment. The sorrow. The grief. Losing a parent is hardly ever easy, at whatever age or stage in life.

At that moment, he was human. It was probably the first time I properly recognised their vulnerability, probably the first time I fully saw my parents in their humanity - which is in itself a thought that’s deeply enervating.

He was human in that moment.

Then, in a fraction of an instant, that look I saw was gone. Not that it vanished. He was doing his best to set it aside - perhaps remembering that this was his son before him, perhaps reminding himself that he needs to be a father, despite having just lost his own.

He was my dad, but he was also human.

Typically, on birthdays, he’d call.

Either sometime between 8.30 and 9.30, or over lunch hour, depending on what his day looked like. 

“Happy birthday, son!” He’d say it in a sing-song voice, if not outright singing the birthday song. 

“Ati you’re turning old now, ama? You’re getting close to my age, eh?” He’d laugh. He had such a rich, warm laugh. He’d make that joke because his birthday is just 2 weeks before mine - at least that’s my head canon.

“May God always bless you and be with you; may He always bless the work of your hands. I love you, son.”

He always had an earnestness in his voice, a genuine sense of celebration, like he really truly appreciated the fact that he had the chance to experience that moment himself. It was an sincerity he often had with him, up to the very last time I spoke with him.

It’s been a year.

In that year, my understanding of grief has evolved many times over. Yet to call it “understanding” feels like a misnomer - I still understand very little of it. What I know is my experience of it. That feeling of loss, especially one this unexpected, can be an all-consuming one. I’ve been to dark spaces before, but I've never traversed such depths of the abyss. I’ve walked in the darkness before, but it’s never embraced me so firmly.

But in this very year, I’ve also experienced love. It is perhaps this love that has kept me from being completely subsumed by grief. Love and empathy - the love of close ones, and the empathy of people I only know because the internet exists. 

Perhaps this love and empathy is his way of looking out for us from wherever he is now, his way of sending us the help we need to keep from sinking altogether. It’s something I want to believe, yet at the same time it feels like believing that wholeheartedly would be to take away from the choices of all the people who extended themselves in empathy, who chose to give of themselves in love.

Still, many things can be true at once.

One whole year.

One of the things you don’t know until it happens is how everything about the way your brain works completely changes. How everything gets foggy. How your memory becomes as useful to your day-to-day living as drinking water from a sieve. How, just to survive, your brain will desperately cling onto something as a crutch - could be work, could be alcohol, could be anything to get the adrenaline going, anything to get the dopamine moving.

Life takes on whole new shades.

It’s been one whole year already. 

There are times when it feels like it was just a few moments ago.

It may be ok one day. Or it may never be.

But it certainly will never be the same.

God knows I miss him.