gratitude grief

Jennifer Juniper

mom dad and jenny.jpg

I didn’t expect my grief for my dad and my mom to be so different from one another.  Feeling a connection to mom has been easier, perhaps because we are/were so much alike? I can’t yet talk about Dad without crying. Not weeping just my eyes overflowing. There is this tender place that I touch when I think of him or realize I just tried to call him or want to call him and ask his advice.

Today someone sent me the lyrics to Donovan’s “Jennifer Juniper.”  He said it should be my theme song. A few weeks ago, I heard it on the radio  and it was the  first time I realized where Dad got my nickname, Juniper.  The song was released early in 1968.  So it was playing in the ethers as Mom was pregnant with me and Dad was in his last semester at  Rockhurst College. And then I entered their world in October.

So today I read the lyrics, listened to the song, cried and felt so lucky that my dad loved me so much.

I remembered the day of his funeral mass when the trumpeter played a solo during communion. I hadn’t requested anything special or even a solo at all. But as I sat next to my brothers and Max, I recognized the song the trumpeter played…The Water is Wide.  And the memory came pouring over me – when  I got married I couldn’t bear the traditional wedding march and instead opted to have my friend Molly sing  The Water is Wide.  It’s a rather depressing song for a wedding, but I love the melody and I am part Irish after all.

In the midst of dad’s funeral, I could feel the steadiness of his arm as he walked me down the aisle (an aisle in an Irish bar on the West Side of Manhattan but an aisle nonetheless). And if I leaned in, I could hear my dad whisper just to me, “I love you Juniper and everything’s going to be okay.”

Dad does send me signs, just in a different language than the one I am used to mom using.  Slowly, I’m starting to catch on.

And I am most grateful for the couriers, the Hermes of the heavens, who unknowingly carry Dad’s messages to me.

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