I’m like a bird, I’ll only fly awayI’m Like a Bird, Nelly Furtado
I don’t know where my soul is
I don’t know where my home is
How do you grieve the death of someone you’ve had the most complicated relationship with?
At work on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago, I was talking with a colleague when another colleague approached me and asked if I knew a woman. The name was familiar. This colleague told me that she had received a text from her client claiming she was my aunt and wanted me to get a hold of her. I left work that night, number in tow, wondering what potential issues I’d be faced with because I figured she was calling about my father.
I went on with the weekend. Spending every waking hour trying to engage the community in my impassioned project, #EatOutToLiftUp, through ticket sales and sponsorships. I received the green light from one of the restaurant sites to host a small, socially distanced runway show. I was trying to secure models and decided what to create from the painted fabric I was given by artist Roberto Lara. I continued through Monday, taking a break to have a birthday lunch with Cathy, when upon my return home, I received a call from my brother.
Now my brother and I only talk on the phone if there is a true need, preferring the adage of texting. He wondered if I had received a call from another aunt. I said, “no” but, I hadn’t talked to her in years, and have since changed my number. He continued on saying he received an email from our cousin about our father’s death and estate. We agreed that he would be the one to find out more information.
I don’t talk much about my father. I made the decision about 20 years ago that I was tired of him coming in and out of my life when it was convenient for him. I didn’t want my children to have to experience that. The decision was made around the time I received a call from a bounty hunter, because I was listed as next of kin and he had jumped bail.
Throughout the years, I learned about his life, his hints of childhood abuse that included sexual abuse. His reckless behavior and how he attempted to hide his alcohol and drug abuse. He wasn’t equipped to be the parent my brother and I needed. He taught me how to swim by pushing me into the deep in the pool. He gave me “the birds and the bees talk” by using the analogy of the snake in the grass. There were a few good summers we spent with him in Texas, but I remember one particular one, that we ended up staying at our aunt’s house. Later I found out, it was because he was picked up on a warrant. There was a moment in my adulthood that I finally thought he was pulling his life together and genuinely trying to be a parent. This was right before my mom died. It was only a few months later when I received that relationship changing call. I stopped being angry and bitter a few years ago. I stopped feeling pity because he wasn’t around to see the incredible things in my life unfold or be there when I was at my lowest points. I knew that wasn’t going to help me only hinder me and I’d be trapped in that cycle that he couldn’t get out of. Instead, I focused on my blessings and I was truly grateful. I continued on the past few years praying for him that he could get what he needed to be a whole person and maybe find some happiness in his own life. I sent light and love and let it be.
Since I was in the 5th grade, he was in and out of jail and/or prison. I think I have been so heavily involved with Fathers Building Futures, because I know first hand that getting a job doesn’t fix the problem of recidivism especially when it is co-mingled with addiction and without addressing childhood trauma.
I walked into my casita and texted my BF, my minis and the leadership of Fathers Building Futures because they are the few people that really knew my story. I told my minis because I didn’t want them finding out from anyone else.
I was numb. I was afraid of what debt or restitution might be ahead for my brother and me. I was numb because I didn’t know how to grieve or if I should grieve or if I should feel guilty for not grieving or if I should be angry. I was feeling all these things. I was also sad because of his life’s choices he may have been alone when he died.
I went on working on the event, sitting on my chair, crossed-legged and feverishly sending out emails while laughing at Schitt’s Creek on TV, in the background, when I started receiving messages from my maternal aunt and uncle, both have always been anchors in my life. The conversation between my uncle and I focused on that, and how grateful he was that he was able to be there for my brother and me when our father was not and I in return, grateful that he was present during those crucial years. My emotions went from numb to laughing to crying hysterically.
We all know quite a number of peopleTo Be Happy, Joey Pecoraro
Who have everything that it would take to be happy
And they are not happy
Because they want something else
Or they want more of the same
And we all know people
Who have lots of misfortune
And they are deeply happy
They radiate happiness
Because they are grateful
I went through the next couple of days having varying conversations with my brother about what happened and what we should do. We both felt that we weren’t the right people to be the executors of his estate or final wishes. And we still hadn’t received information on the cause of death.
I continued to work: my day job, planning the event, and working on creations for a small curated runway show, when I stumbled upon this post.
I threw myself into my work, not wanting to talk to anyone until I could figure out how I felt. One night, I heard Aleissa Cara’s version of Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird” and it really struck me, especially the lines, “I’m like a bird. I’ll only fly away. I don’t know where my soul is. I don’t know where my home is.” His life, as I knew it as a truck driver, reminded me of those lines.
That started to propel my creativity. I decided I would focus on CUTTING THROUGH THE NOISE. We all have things that happen to us. Things that we do on our own. But, if we can accept that accountability and responsibility, we can grow from that and we move past learned helplessness. Indirectly, my father taught me that, by showing me he could not do that for himself. That fed into something else beyond me.
WE ALL HAVE THE POWER TO POSITIVELY OR NEGATIVELY IMPACT THE WORLD AROUND US.
GIVE without expecting
SPEAK your truth
LIVE with intention
SHARE your gifts
The event came together beautifully.
Whether we realize it or not, everyone who crosses your path impacts your life. You also don’t know what someone is going through but providing a little grace and kindness can mean the world to someone.
Is your faith in me brings me to tears (ah)I’m Like a Bird, Nelly Furtado
Even after all these years, years
And it pains me so much to tell
That you don’t know me that well
I even incorporated “I’m Like a Bird” into the show and added, “To Be Happy”, Joey Pecoraro and “Dreamworld”, Robin Thicke (you can hear the playlist here). I left that night feeling good about what I accomplished and the power of giving back to my community. Monday, as I was wrapping up the event details, I received an email from the Cremation Society of NM. Filling out the form, I found he died on September 16, 2020. I still don’t know how he died. That same afternoon I was cleaning my room and found a book I had read a few years back was under my dresser, Seneca’s “On The Shortness of LIfe.”
I opened it and it was as if someone was trying to tell me something:
I know that this is not something which is in our power and that no strong feeling is under our control, least of all that which arises from sorrow: for it is violent and violently resists every remedy. Sometimes we want to crush it and swallow down our groans, but through pretended composure of our features the tears pour down. Sometimes we divert our mind with public shows or gladiatorial contests, but in the very midst of the distractions of the spectacles it is undermined by some little reminder of its loss. Therefore it is better to conquer our grief than to deceive it…the grief that has been conquered by reason is calmed for ever.On the Shortness of Life, Seneca
I am not writing this to look for sympathy. I write this to remind myself, to go into the day and treat everyone with kindness. You have no idea what battle they may be fighting. I also realized that although there may be miles between someone you can still grieve them. And while I’ve prayed for him most of my life. I now pray that he is finally at peace.
With light and love,
Dara Sophia Romero