November 30, 2023

We Don’t Die in a Day. We Die Slowly.

I found my dad’s Oyster card the other day, in the hallway bureau.

My dad bought this flat in the late 80s, when he was working in London for a few years. It’s been a place of comfort and safety to me since I was 15, when he and I lived here together.

When I was 15 and back from boarding school for the summer, my dad and I went shopping together for furniture for my room. To a little shop in Wandsworth that later turned into a Carphone Warehouse and now doesn’t exist at all.

The flat has been redecorated since then, of course. The yellow pine moved on years ago. It’s just a fond memory now.

There’s been lots of transition in my life the last few years, and somehow it’s culminated in my living back here again for a while.

When my dad died, I needed to phase his things out in stages. I couldn’t bear to let go of it all at once.

Sadhguru says we shouldn’t hold onto the belongings of the dead. If we do that, we’re making that person’s transition harder. Because we don’t die in a day; we die slowly.

I’d already read Sadhguru’s book Death when I was trying to process what was happening as my dad moved toward the end, so I knew that. But anyway, afterward it felt odd to see all his clothes hanging in the wardrobe as though nothing had happened. It didn’t feel right to leave it all there untouched.

The bulk of it I took down to the charity shop. Fed pajamas and T-shirts to the recycling bin for refugees at the end of the street. There was comfort in the thought of someone else benefiting from what he no longer needed. He would have liked that.

The sentimental things I kept. His slippers, his running shoes, his silk ties, and his winter bobble hat. His passports, a lifetime told in border crossings. And the watch my mother gave him for his 60th birthday that he wore on his wrist every day. The things that, for me, were intrinsically a part of my dad. Part of his identity on this earth. Things I wasn’t ready to let go of. That I’m still not ready to let go of.

I love seeing these things, being able to touch them. I talk to him and tell him I’m not ready to let go of them just yet. He tells me, “Alright sweetheart, whatever you want.”

It was nearly a year and a half before I was ready to see if there was any money on his Oyster card.

My dad was the sort of person who’d fill up the car as soon as the tank got to half full. He wasn’t the sort of person to let an Oyster card run itself down to nothing.

So I took the Oyster down to the tube and happily discovered 20 odd quid on there. Using his Oyster was like going on one last trip with my dad. One last surprise journey together.

It was lovely. A gift in more ways than one.


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