The Toronto Sun
Name: Lisa P.
Tell me about the person who died:
Jose was my father. We called him Joe. Some of his nicknames were Joey, the Dalai Lama, and Jack, because people thought he looked like a Spanish version of Jack Nicholson. In 2003 while I was away in Mexico, my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and given 3 months to live. He died on August 10, 2013. I was with him when he died, and saw him breathe his last breath.
My dad was a very genuine and real person. His laugh was large and he always helped others. My dad had big hands and when he died they were arthritic and twisted up a bit. He was someone who understood me more than anyone I knew. He helped anyone he could. I miss him like crazy. My dad and I talked on the phone a few times a day as he didn't have much to do.
Tell me about an object that reminds you of the person who died, and why?
My father was a coffee truck driver. And as a coffee truck driver he sold copies of the Toronto Sun newspaper. I remember him picking up a huge stack in the morning and as he drove from factory to factory the stack would quickly disappear. But he always kept the top copy for himself. A tattered and torn copy, he would read it every day when he had a break, although he only had a few breaks during his 12 hour days. For the most part this was the only time I saw my dad read, but it was a ritual that he enjoyed daily while drinking his coffee. My father was a very practical man, and whenever I see this paper, I immediately think of him.
What was your experience of grief like after your loss?
Even though I had a lot of time to prepare for his loss, I felt numb. And as I write this, I realize that I still feel numb. And angry. Angry that one of the best people in the world was taken away early. Along with my grief came an understanding of injustice. Couldn't the bad people of the world die instead of the nicest guy ever? Because his sickness lasted so long, I was not quite prepared for the finality of death. I cry a lot and sadness is closer to the surface. I also talk to people about it a lot because, well, I think we should. Everyone has lost something.
How did people support you in your grief? What was helpful? What was frustrating?
Some people think that there is a due date on grief and that you should feel better about it. But the helpful bits were when people just understand that the sadness will never really go away, it will just dull a bit.
Did anything surprise you about your experience with grief?
Just that it lasts so long.
How did your private grieving relate to your public mourning?
I have always been very public about my mourning. I have also had two miscarriages in the past six years and feel that my community and the world at large shouldn't be shielded by my mourning. I think of cultures where people mourn out loud, and that is what I did. At first I tried to be more calm, and then when I felt tears and anger, I just told people that was how I was and if they couldn't deal, to leave. Which really, no one ever did.
Was there anything about your cultural or religious background that affected the grieving process for you?
I think that being Spanish and open with my feelings made it easer for me to grieve.
Were there any mourning rituals that helped you in your grief?
I wrote a lot. I drew photos of my father. I touched things that were his and for a while I wore a few of his shirts, which sounds creepy. I am in the process of making a quilt out of my dad's old shirts for my son. It won't look like much but it will be the Grandpa Joe quilt.
How did your loss and your grief change you?
I am a bit more serious and quiet. And have a bit more of a fuck you attitude. If you don't like it, don't look. I also realize that I am very aware of how short life really is. It sucks.
This post is part of Grief Landscapes, an evolving art project documenting the unique terrain of people’s grief. Participants share an experience with bereavement, and I then photograph an object that evokes the person who died, transforming it into an abstract landscape inspired by the story. I’m looking for many more submissions and for a range of experiences, so please share widely! Learn more about the project and submit your story. - Mindy Stricke