--by Mike Adams
It was spring 1979 and I, a confused, seven year old little boy, could not fully comprehend my circumstances. I had just entered a polished and elegantly furnished room. The finished oak, and exquisite wall patterns were complemented by flowing curtains filling the space with a sense of dignified solemnity. My Mom, Grandparents and extended family entered the room first, followed by both my sister and I. In contrast to the decorous surroundings we were a bit skittish. I had abandoned “good behavior” and bounced chaotically about the room, periodically attempting to swing on a curtain or clamber over furniture.
Several relatives tried to gently distract or restrain me. However, no one showed anger or frustration, the situation simply wouldn’t tolerate that. My sister and I would soon confront a difficult and life changing experience. Thus our efforts at distraction were accepted with kindness.
My mom and Uncle spoke at length with the man in charge, after which, we moved towards the front of the room. There, the family paused as my sister and I stepped forward and gingerly peered over the edge of a grey box, where we confronted the remains of our father, Kirby L. Adams.
He appeared to be sleeping, so I reached out to nudge his face, hoping he would wake up, smile and hug me. When my fingers touched his cheek, I was jarred by his cold skin. It seemed to send an electric shock racing through my arm, to my stomach, where it inspired a convulsion before continuing to the focal point of my emotional life. There is crashed through any obstruction, releasing a flood of grief and anger, for which I was completely unprepared.
My legs crumpled and I fell towards the ground. My uncle raced over to lift me, at which point, I pushed free with all my might and darted into an adjoining room. There, I collapsed into a chair, I was overwhelmed with grief, sobbing with every fiber of my being. I cried because my Daddy was really gone, I cried because for the first time in my short life, something truly terrible had happened and I could do nothing to change it. I cried because, despite uncountable dutiful prayers, God had turned his back on me. I cried because there was nothing else to do. I was filled with a limitless reservoir of pain, which would never empty. I thought I might cry so hard that I too would die and be laid to rest with my dad, but this didn’t happen.
I have no memories from the rest of that day. The only thing I’m sure of is that I couldn’t believe he was gone. I couldn’t accept that neither my sister nor I would ever cuddle up on his lap while he tickled us or imitated Donald Duck. My Daddy was gone, he could no longer make me feel safe, loved or important, He was really gone.
For months, I suffered intense grief, periodically bursting into tears, while at play with my friends or watching TV. Slowly, I adjusted to life without Dad and months passed, turning into years as grief was replaced by fond memories.
It has been more than thirty years since those events took place and today they occasionally seem as fresh as this morning’s coffee, while on other occasions, they are more like a movie or book about some sympathetic character, whom you want to reach out and comfort.
I recently noticed that when I think about my father’s death, I usually think of myself as I am now. Meaning, I remember those events through the filter of a grown man, with all the wisdom, knowledge and capacities that I have today.
I can’t truly remember the small child or how he felt. That young innocent and trusting soul is a stranger to me. He has become, dare I say romanticized, though a romanticized part of who I am today.
Several years back, while visiting my Dad’s grave, I watched my then seven year old step-son speed around the premesis. He pranced about, lackadaisically hanging from trees, and intermittently chasing his little brother. I stood at my father’s grave, simply remembering. When suddenly, I realized how young I had been. I saw that little seven year old boy gallivant about the cemetery reflecting the sun's jubilance, oblivious to the significance he played in my life on that day.
For the first time in many years, I began to cry over my deceased father. Not due so much, to personal grief, but rather out of compassion for that young child, whose world had been torn asunder some twenty eight years earlier. I cried for his loss...as I watched my step-son play.
And I realized that though he was a part of who I am as a grown man, I am in no way a part of who he was. That little boy is unknown to me and I will likely never really know him. He is gone, grown into an adult, a father and husband, transformed by life into who I am now.