Ten years ago on this day my life changed forever. I learned what it was like to lose a part of yourself, I learned that "heartbreak" isn't figurative - your heart actually aches from pain when a loss is too great and too sudden to comprehend. I learned that the passage of time can be both a balm and completely trivial. That sometimes you feel like the one you lost is trapped somewhere floating behind you as you soldier on. Every milestone and new normal you find might be a betrayal, as you worry if you don’t scream from the rooftops they will be forgotten from this world. Life goes on, but it will never be the same, and nostalgia becomes something tangible you can almost taste - you know exactly what year you would wish to be back in, what season, which place you could freeze in time if you had a magic lamp. Ten years ago when I was still a teen - l learned the secret part of grief that platitudes don't address - a secret that's really only shared between initiates who’ve been tapped by death, on a need to know basis (if we all knew from the start life would be too unwieldy): the pain never leaves. It tucks itself into a little ball and hides inside the framed photo at your dressing room mirror, expanding like a balloon when you wonder who will walk you down the aisle.
I don’t have a gracious, comfortable contrast to these feelings on this particular day of the year. I know that I am lucky to have had the love and example of a Father that was special enough to leave such a hole, and loss is part of the human condition. I try to honor him every day. He taught me to drive, showed me the meaning of integrity, selflessness, intellectual curiosity and social responsibility. He left me with a love of Shakespeare, Fela Kuti, Cat Stevens, and the Beatles. He gave me the only body part that stays toned without trying (calves - everyone gets just one). And he left with me a beautiful constellation of family across the US and Nigeria that my job has allowed me to reconnect with. Today I had plantains, rice, and stew with his niece and her brilliant, hilarious children that he didn’t get a chance to meet. I was happy and content and sad and nostalgic. Tomorrow will be more of the happy and the sad will recede. A hurum gi n’anya