As usual, my father did it again. Today I had been debating whether to go to an EFT Tapping workshop (“Tapping into Financial Flow”), a Halloween party at Cloak & Dagger (this goth-like members-only dance club I am apart of), or just stay home and try to catch up on some coursework. My impulse had been to go to this party, even though I knew I was way behind in my coursework. …this will make more sense in a bit.
I’ve been feeling very emotional lately, which in my book is a good thing, at least right now. Ever since my father’s death, I’ve been having a difficult time letting my emotions out; yet for the past week the tears have been coming. Maybe it was that I finally started to get some closure on a recent heartache I had, maybe it’s that my apartment is back together and I’m feeling the physical space to be safe enough to cry, or maybe, it’s my father speaking to me again.
Last night, I did a New Moon in Scorpio ritual, and to prepare for that ritual I did a guided meditation where I imagined an angel cutting the chords to all of my attachments that no longer served me. Sitting right behind this angel, I saw my father. Last winter we had had a fight where he told me “you’ve gotta stop doing that video stuff!” It was the first time in my life I ever felt my father not supporting my passions, and the first time I ever felt like he was scared for my future and didn’t understand what I was doing. Yet for the past week I’ve been highly motivated to apply for all media-oriented jobs. As archangel Michael severed the chords of the negative attachments to unhealthy attractions, friendships, behaviors and habits, I saw my father smiling at me. He then said to me “I was wrong. I’m so grateful I get to watch you do this. I’m so happy that I’m not in charge of your fate.” My dad had always talked about how he talked to my grandmother after she was gone, and I felt like I was starting to understand now what that was. The tears started pouring out. It was the first time I had felt this connected to my dad since Burning Man.
I had to numb myself to my grief in order to get through everything that went along with the funeral: creating and executing (and fixing) the tech of the slideshow, learning and singing Danny Boy, writing and reading my eulogy, and mostly, talking to roughly 150 people during calling hours (not to mention the 24/7 influx of neighbors and family friends coming in and out of the house), most of whom were strangers to me; but all who had emotions and memories about losing my father. As someone who is highly sensitive, this was a lot to take. I was not only having to grapple with my own grief, but was feeling everyone else’s grief around me, pretty much non-stop. It was either stay open, and not be able to perform my duties as a daughter for the funeral, or close up, and hold it all in so I could do what I needed to do, until it felt safe enough to let it all out.
It was for these reasons, that I chose to read the eulogy that I had read, which is in the previous post. What most people don’t know, is that one was actually the second version I wrote, and that this first version felt much more personal to me. When I got to the church on the day of my dad’s funeral, I was still undecided on which to read, and even undecided after it took me an hour to fix the screens showing the slideshow. After another hour of calling hours, I retreated to the pastor’s office, to get his opinion. He said, “Now, they’re both very good; but I would ask yourself, with the first one, with everything going on, do you want to show this much of yourself?” I had realized that the answer was no. This funeral wasn’t about me, it was about my father’s community and everyone else who shared a part of his life, and it was my job as his daughter to help facilitate an experience where we could all share memories together. I knew that this first eulogy would be for the blog. And so, here it is:
“Hi everyone. As many of you know I’m Amanda, Terry’s daughter. Or as he might have called me, “Cakes,” or “his favorite youngest daughter.” While I have been living in California for most of the last decade, I did take three years to come home to shoot a documentary about my father and his pursuit of his dream of having a barn and Christmas tree farm. So I wasn’t just his daughter, I was also his film’s director. What no one will tell you when filming a documentary about your dad is how close it will bring you two as you start to see the version of your father that is the man inside his own story, and not just in relation to who he is as the man who raised you to become a strong, independent woman .
Within being taught that independence and strength, I was also taught authenticity, so I’m going to get a little weird on you. For most of you here today, you don’t know me, or you still think of me as the little girl who was pursuing Broadway dreams. Well hi, I’m 32 years-old, and have become a bona fide working photographer and hippie. Therefore this next bit I’m sorry but I need to talk about my recent experience of going to Burning Man, which is the reason we’re here on this date and not two weeks ago closer to when he passed.
See when my father was in hospice, I was trying to figure out whether I would be attending this massive, like 75,000 people massive, social experiment; building a temporary city in the middle of nowhere in Nevada, where I was instrumental in building what we “burners” call a theme camp. This is a group of people that put together an experience that is a gift to everyone who attends and participates in the event. Our camp was called Resolution, and our gift was to host New Years’ parties where we would help people come up with their New Year’s resolutions through counseling with helpful wheels they could spin, an open mimosa bar, a ceremonial ball drop complete with a massive mechanical ball and custom-made cups we were gifting with a decoration station. I had been planning this thing since April and was a lead of the camp and felt conflicted about leaving – but knew my father would want me to go.
At Burning Man they have a Temple where you can leave something behind in or write on its walls to memorialize a loved one. The city is as much about celebrating life as it is about understanding the impermanence of it all. The wooden man structure at the center, the Temple, and much of the art, are all burned down at the end of the week. So I took a wooden flying pig with me to be burned at the Temple in remembrance of my father. As you know my father loved flying pigs, and would keep them around the house to remind us that anything is possible, because pigs really do fly.
When I got to the Temple, I thought I would start writing this, the eulogy, what I’m reading now standing in front of you today. What I got instead while writing, was a lot of rambling, and a thought that maybe he would come back as a flying pig. I tried to talk to my dad; I tried to get some of his wisdom passing through me, but I got nothing. Just a conversation with myself – trying to understand the meaning in all of this. So instead, I felt the best way I could honor him would be to ask myself in every moment “what would my dad do?”
Maybe it doesn’t surprise you that that resulted in a lot of champagne and whiskey, dancing, supporting someone I had feelings for, and making every moment about giving back to those around me. I found myself keeping some folks on track for our build when they just didn’t want to finish the work. I found myself saying yes to every shot of whiskey offered to me. I found myself expressing most passionately, and even telling stories spontaneously during my timeslot on the city’s center camp stage, as opposed to sticking with my plan of just reading my poetry. I found myself staying up through an event I didn’t even have a volunteer shift for, to support the person I stayed up all night dancing with. I found myself caring so much about fostering that community and giving people insight as to the life changes they could be making through my resolution counseling and tarot readings. I even found myself making a confidant, boisterous remark to someone who hurt me several years ago who didn’t recognize me at all when we ran into each other.
I was celebrating! I wasn’t sad, but I also was sad, and a bit numb. At the end of the week I went to go see my friend Daniel, who refers to himself as my “spiritual big brother.” He asked if I had any quartz on me, which I did have on a necklace. He then waved his hand and said “there, I put your father in your necklace.” I was perplexed; he saw the confused look on my face and said that my father was there with us, and had been with me all week. His wife got a shiver up her spine and said the same thing; they could feel his presence with us right as we were standing there. I told them I couldn’t feel much of anything at all. Daniel simply said, “just wait, you will.” Reflecting later that day, tossing my necklace over in my hands, I looked at my actions and my behavior within this years’ burn; and then I realized I had become my father in so many ways. Dad and his love of community, clinking glasses, making sure everyone is taken care of, and holding others to a certain level of accountability. I mean for goodness sake; I was throwing epic New Years’ parties all week just as he did every single year ever since I was a kid! How did I not see this before?
It made me realize, that we can either keep being upset at who we lost, and keep wondering why now, how did this happen, who am I without my father, husband or best friend? Or we can remember that my dad touched us all so deeply, and lived so fully, that if we allow ourselves, we can all be a little bit more like my dad, and in that way, he’s never really gone. Now, I know we’ll all miss his gregarious laughs, Santa-like twinkle in his eyes, and the way he would get super excited about his next project and just have to show it to you. We will never be able to replace him, and I sure do miss him more than I’ll ever really feel comfortable showing. But my father always said, “life is for the living” and that’s what we have to keep on doing. Thank you.”
Since then, my quartz necklace has gone “missing.” I put that in quotation marks because there’s a spiritual belief that crystals don’t ever get lost, they simply have given you all that you needed and find new homes to those that need them more. After the funeral, I felt the weight of that crystal lighten. It was at the NYC Burning Man Decompression, that the crystal found a new home. It was here that I was gifting tarot readings again, telling stories on stage again, and focusing deeply on my community. If what they say about crystals is true, then maybe it’s because I had come to a place where I didn’t need my father’s spirit to be with me, for me to live in celebration of him. I had grown up, and he had moved on. So with all this being said, I’ve chosen tonight to go clink some glasses in celebration of my father’s life. As much as my father loved to work, he loved most when he got to work with his friends, and celebrate with them after. In this spirit, cheers to you, dad! I miss you, and always will. Happy Birthday.