Several years ago (well, perhaps as many as a seven or eight years), I wrote a short essay entitled "My Father's Car." I can see the words on the page now as if it were yesterday. I used my father's car (the night, in fact, of the wake for my father) as a metaphor for the cold reality of death that hit me then. I can glimpse some phrases and images -- the cold hard steel of the hood of the car, the hood that my friend and I lay on talking, or the deep melancholy strains of Joni Mitchell's "River" floating in my mind, the people passing in and out of my house, the "funeral" food brought to us --- but have never been able to reconstruct the essay as it was then. You see, I lost it and have never recovered it.
I've never really gotten over this. I still look for that essay at times. I still hope it will turn up, that's it's somewhere in digital limbo or that I squirreled away a hard copy. You might say it's just words, but I feel like a part of me was lost when I lost that essay.
Jill Carattini writes about this, noting that "[t]he loss of words is a silence palpable to many." That's a good way of saying it: "palpable," meaning a silence that you can almost touch or feel, that you perceive deeply. When we write out of deep feeling, we tell our story, at least part of it, and to lose it is to lose part of our life."God made man," said Elie Weisel "because He loves stories." So too we love them, being His image-bearers; thus we feel their loss as if losing ourselves. I feel the presence of its absence.
I can't bring my father back. Nor can I summon up the spirit of "My Father's Car." It doesn't work that way. Somewhere my father lives on; so too my words live on. One life, one story, but there's a greater Story being told, a greater Life unfolding. Death may hurt, but it really has no sting.