You say goodbye and watch them walk back to the house in your rear view mirror. You will see them again, maybe in a month or so. As you drive away your thoughts go to other things and the objects are no longer closer than they appear.
Losing someone close to you is when you shut down the senses; you cannot hear, touch, feel, see, or taste. We see our bodies moving, our mouths opening, but it is all an out of body experience. As we go through their possessions, we remember that moment they wore that shirt, the time we argued, the book we didn't know they had read.
What did they say to us before that week? Where did they go? And now what am I to do? We look around and see this empty space, and we realize how much of our lives they filled. If only I had said "I love you" one more time, as though by saying it, it would stave off the inevitable, like waving a magic wand. Saying it out loud is to tell the universe that someone who is loved is not to be taken too soon.
One of my student's father passed away suddenly a month ago. Ryan Young was about to graduate; he got the call a week before at school. Edmund Lee Young passed away too soon, he was only 56. To our small community the loss was felt so strongly because we all cared so much about Ryan. Phone calls, text messages, emails wove like a spider's web that day; we all focused on what we could do to help.
We are here to carry on the last generation's story, we hold the stories of the past and create new ones to pass on. Ryan and his father's story is made up of sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell; there will be moments when a sound will bring back a memory so clear that it will feel as though Ryan's father is there. And as time goes on, Ryan will layer those memories with new ones and weave his father's story into his. The past is always closer than it appears, even as you travel further away from it, it will always be there when you look back.
You can read Ryan's tribute to his father, "I Love You Dad" here.
Artist, designer and teacher Ophelia Chong explores her adopted city of Los Angeles with an eye and ear for the small moments that tests the duality of being an Asian American. Join her on her journey every Thursday on KCET's SoCal blog