As I prepare for my MFA thesis defense next month, I realize that I am exhausted from all the edits. I wrote a “Reason For Being” as an homage to the experience of loss, but also the experience of an awakening.
The loss of a loved one or loved ones, the loss of cultural identity, the loss of autonomy.
In this last section of the thesis/memoir, I am at the Tri-Cities Airport waiting to board my flight to Seattle, and then to Fairbanks, Alaska. I spent the four days in Kennewick, WA to help bury my dear aunt who passed away from liver cancer. I gave the eulogy at her funeral.
6 years later, 170 pages, and a defense to go. I will close my time on this project.
Unless, it gets published. Until then, for now I’ll settle for a good thesis defense.
I checked my luggage and made my way to the boarding gate slowly. In a matter of days, the airport seemed much smaller than when I first arrived. And, like the comfort that a blanket can offer, the airport is empty. The passengers on a previous flight have all left, and along with them, the families who saw them take off.
I walk to the gate area and I found that I have the freedom to choose from the many available seats. It was a gift that no one was at the boarding gate, and I found solace in the peace that such silence offered me. I sat on one that I want to believe may have been the one my Aunt sat on at one point in her life.
I begin to think that the only place in this world where lives interconnect with one another is the airport. Many significant moments from my life can be documented by the airports I have departed from and arrived at, and there have been so many. I’ve picked up my husband with kids in tow flying in from a three-month tour from Iraq. I’ve left men who I thought would be the love of my life because I was moving, and the last time I’ve seen them were at the airports waving me off goodbye. My kids would always be at the waiting area from when I arrived home from a conference; oftentimes with hair uncombed, mismatching clothes and standing next to Bryan who had a look of relief that I was home.
My last day in Kennewick, I sit there waiting for my flight. I look to my left and I see her sitting there looking at me.
“Hi Kiddo. Rough few days huh?” She asks me. I look at Lucy, and she is vibrant of life. Her hair is exactly how I saw it last: medium length, and with bangs.
“Yes, Auntie. We had to say goodbye to you, and I know the truth,” I tell her.
“The truth is sometimes better told when the person who knows it is no longer there to tell you. We’re meant to understand the pieces of information given to us.” She said. “And, it’s up to you, Kiddo what you would like to believe.”
I looked at my watch, and when I looked to the seat next to me, it is empty once again. I sat there and wondered how such things can be pieced together through the experiences that I have gone through. There were moments during that 4-day weekend in Kennewick where I struggled to reconcile myself with my family. I acknowledged that I was merely a thread that contributed to the tapestry of my family history. Often, people feel obligated to acknowledge some growth, some fulfillment of the wish to be filled with wisdom. I had no desire to search for a portal of enlightenment that may or may not contribute to the definitive self. Yet, I know it would happen anyway and such wisdom will be absorbed by every cell that exist in my body.
I think of my family as a massive tapestry illustrating the story of our lives. I can picture my Lola Fe standing in front of it. She traces every thread and identity. She is able to describe every detail of their life story. She tells it in the language of her choice. She comes across a thread that had been designated for me, her once-defiant granddaughter, and describes how some parts have become tight patterns of beautiful colors, while the other patterns are undone or tattered. She sighs and traces the pattern ever so delicately, with adoration that only a grandmother reserves for her granddaughter. She’d find comfort in knowing that I too, prefer to remain fragmented, flawed, and incomplete. I came to the conclusion that the reasons why such experiences happen in life have no significance. The significance lies within the evolution of the being emerging from an awakening.
The awakening becomes the reason for being.