I come downstairs in the middle of the night to see my father, standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. The sight is a familiar one, something I've often been met with when I wander downstairs late at night or in the early hours of the morning, plagued with insomnia. I'll find him standing in front of the sink, his shirt wet from the spray of water, humming classical tunes as he contentedly washed away the messes of the day.
Now though his demeanor is melancholic. His shoulders, already bowed from long years leaning over stove top and the piano, have a defeated slump to them. I stand in the doorway for a few moments before he notices me.
When he looks up, his eyes are watery and red, the usually subtle crows feet at the corners deepened by his tight expression. He looks older than I can ever remember him being. I can see the loss etched into his face. All the shields he had during the day are gone now, and there is just sadness.
He gives a weak attempt at a smile and asks me why I'm out of bed at this hour, playing at normality. I try and answer, by the words catch in my throat. Understanding crosses his face, and he drops the pretence. Without realizing I must have started crying, because I can feel the wetness trailing down my cheeks.
He holds me against his chest, embracing me as I tremble and cry. My tears are soaking into his ratty T-shirt, but he doesn't seem to mind. He seems to be shaking a bit too, hits breathing irregular and his heart quickened. When I draw back for a moment, I'm not surprised to see his eyes glistening with tears as well.
I don't understand death. Physiologically, logically, it makes complete sense to me. Emotionally though, I find myself rather at a loss. There's suddenly just a hole where a person used to be, not obtrusive but glaringly obvious and painful all the same.
This is certainly not my first experience with death, but it makes no more sense to me now than it did when I was four; when my best friend, my sister in all but blood, was suddenly replaced by an empty space, her meat suit reduced to blood and flesh and bones, and her self gone without warning, without sense.
It makes me wonder at the point, whether there actually is one at all. We go on with our lives, rushing to and fro, trying to reach some unknown destination, striving to be better, stronger, louder than everyone else. In the end though, we're all the same. What's the point? My father calls it existential angst, prescribes a book of buddhist philosophy, his goto cure almost any trouble.
Its not the first time I've wondered about death. Not even the first time I've thought about it in respect to myself. But this time my thoughts are fuelled by a sense of futility and morbid curiosity, not the depression and self loathing that is my norm.
But I suppose that struggle, that hustle and bustle of daily life, is the point. We don't need to force a greater meaning where there is one, construct a pattern where there is only random chaos. We just need to live.