From December 10, 2015
My husband and I had been looking for a house for some time, and when we finally found the right one, the process of buying it and moving in was a rather magical process for us. There were other significant life events mingled in with the house and moving events, making the months of September and October an extraordinary time. But the most significant event took place four days after we moved in.
Early that morning I was watering the garden, and as I turned to go back into the sun room I heard a voice say – “This is a very big day for you. It’s a big ending. And a new beginning.” I thought the voice was talking about leaving our old apartment and moving into the new house.
In the car on the way to my old home office to see clients (my new office was still being set up), I heard a radio interview with a famous travel writer wrote a book about his experiences in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Arkansas. He talked about the incredible hospitality of the south, and the very specific culture of white men in the south.
I got out of the car thinking, “Wow, what a great, insightful interview,” and walked into my office. A new voicemail was waiting for me – from a white man in Arkansas, a county sheriff, looking for the next of kin for John Bibilos.
I already knew what was coming. I called him and he confirmed – my father had died the day before. I cried – for a minute. Then I called my husband, brother and mother. Then five minutes later a new client walked into my office and I started a session, asking “Ok, Universe – how does life-as-me need to show up for this person today?”
My father had been both mentally and physically very ill in the last few years of his life. As we learned about what had happened, we found out that he’d been bedridden and almost entirely alone, except for the generosity, compassion – and southern hospitality – of a few people who watched out for him, especially the pastor at the local church.
My father’s mental illness is difficult to describe. It was a painfully tangled assortment of bi-polar behavior, depression, narcissism, rage, gambling addiction, tobacco addiction, and in later years, delusion and possibly dementia. My childhood was filled with moments of love and and a short taste of happiness immediately followed by one of his outbursts of anger, conflict, violence, projection, etc. Though he loved us powerfully, he could not ever sustain a loving, happy moment for very long, because his inner darkness was too great.
Of the many tragic elements of my father’s story, two win out for me as the most tragic:
1. That he was never willing to face and heal the darkness from his childhood.
2. Out of his incredible pain and shame, he pushed away every single person who had ever loved him – friends, immediate and extended family, bosses, colleagues, landlords, neighbors…everyone.
But even in this, my father was also my greatest teacher. His darkness inspired me to heal my childhood anger, wounds and darkness – and to awaken as thoroughly and powerfully as possible. He also inspired me to open my heart and receive the incredible abundance of love – both Divine Infinite Love and Divine Love expressed through humans.
We decided to have my father’s memorial celebration in Boston, with the extended Greek family that my father had rejected; the family that my brother, mother and I had re-embraced. My husband lovingly called it the “Big Fat Greek Memorial Celebration.” We offered my father’s ashes to the Atlantic Ocean, returning him back to one of his favorite places of his otherwise troubled youth. I suspect the beach had been a refuge for him during dark times.
The next day, we went to my cousins’ Greek Orthodox Church, where they had arranged for the special 40-day memorial service to be offered for my father. With the regular Sunday divine liturgy, this was a 90-minute service. I arrived early with my immediate family and some of my cousins, and one of my cousins arranged for me to sit in the first seat of the first row, right in front of the priest. Through the course of the service, every time I turned around, more of my cousins filled the pews behind me, until there were 40 or more people behind me.
When it came time to sing the ancient Greek memorial hymns (in a ritual that is almost 2,000 years old), I felt all of their prayers, love, and voices lifted in song for my father. I felt the spirits of my ancestors. I was overwhelmed by how much love they all had for him, the love that never changed, even though my father could not accept it while he was alive.
After a memorial brunch at my cousin’s restaurant, and another family dinner that night, I was spent. But after everyone else had gone to bed, I stayed up late on my cousin’s living room couch and wept.
I wept in gratitude for all that my father taught me and all that he gave me.
I wept in gratitude for all the love in my family and in my life.
I wept in gratitude for how easy and sweet his death has been, even though his life was so, so hard.
I wept for the immeasurable gifts of every part of my life with him, no matter how painful or nightmarish.
Besides weeping in gratitude that night, the grief for my father has been so light. My brother and I have both mostly felt relief. We had let him go long ago when he pushed us away; but knowing that he was still out there suffering somewhere was the hardest thing for both of us. The strongest wave of grief that I experienced was a 10-minute burst of tears, a shower of release and relief, triggered when I realized that I no longer had to worry about him in some part of my brain. We are grateful that our father is now beyond both physical and emotional suffering.
My father has been the reason for my healing; my motivation to be healthy; and thus ultimately the instigator for so many miracles of my life. There is always light in darkness, and my father, as well as my relationship with him, was the embodiment of that.
A healer friend once told me that my father had chosen this life to burn out a lot of karma. I suspect that that’s true, and the freedom and ease of his death may be one sign of all that was burned away and freed. I sense his spirit is now reconciling this life and is slowly preparing to move on. I hope that the total love and forgiveness that we all have for him helps him on his soul’s journey.
Rest in peace, Dad. You have certainly earned it.