May The Four Winds Blow You Safely Home

This year, on September 28, Jews around the world (even a non-religious, strictly cultural one like me) will mark Rosh Hashana and the beginning of 5769 (we’s an old people) with family and food, honey and hope.

I am marking New Year a little early this year.

September 12 is my new New Year: the anniversary of my father’s death.

One year. This fucking year. This fucking horrible, crazy, shitty, sad, ridiculous, amazing, joyous, wonderful year. My dad is gone, my second daughter is here, and I still have no idea what to make of it all.

I still cry every pretty much every time I think of my dad (so, a lot). Grief still takes it’s painful blows at me. I still want him here so badly I can barely stand upright sometimes. I still want to scream at people, ‘No! You don’t understand. A year has not been a long time. You don’t understand how cool my dad was, that the world is truly worse for losing him so soon; that a year has only begun to dull the shock of his absence.’

But, taking another cue from my Jewish heritage, I will mark the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death and stop wearing black. You're wearing grey, you’re remarking. I know. The black is in that ring around my heart, the one that’s been choking me for the last 12 months. I’m going to try to release it as best I can, or at least dress it in blue. No, burnt umber, which is the colour of the tattered shorts my dad used to wear. The one’s we always made fun of.

My sister and my niece just went back home to BC after being here for a two-week visit. It was fairly spontaneous, their visit, and I think we just needed to be together, the four of us siblings. As this anniversary approaches we needed to just be around the only people who understand what it means to lose our father.

Did I ever tell you that my dad was a sailor? He was in the Navy for four years, during Viet Nam, and his stories from that time are amazing. Funny, revealing, poignant – my dad had an arsenal of tales from that time, and the experience made him very uniquely who he was.
My younger sister has a nautical tattoo planned to honour him: a sepia-toned image of an antique navigational map. It will be a map of the area in the Pacific that he sailed. It will have a compass on it, and perhaps a word or two.

I think it will be a beautiful tattoo, and I can’t wait for her to get it.

I think it is a good idea to trade the grief I’ve been wearing for something a little less confining. Something that helps replace sadness with love and honour; something that reminds me of my dad but will make me smile instead of cry.

For sailors, swallows represented the approaching land and the end of a journey. Traditionally, sailors would tattoo one swallow for every 5,000 miles that they sailed. I don’t know exactly how many miles my dad actually sailed, but in four years it was probably quite a few.

I’m starting with two swallows, and I feel lighter already.

Happy New Year.



  1. oh wow. They are beautiful and made me smile.
    I wish I had some words of wisdom, but I don't.
    Just the hope that the tears are fewer as time goes on.

  2. perhaps, at least in my mind, they represent 10,000 mile of grief you have travelled.

    They are beautiful and they are so you and I am so so so sorry still so sorry for your loss.

  3. Oh they're beautiful! I hope they carry some of your grief for you...

  4. they are beautiful. thank you for sharing. though i wish you didn't have to feel deep sadness each time you think of your dad, i believe you are so blessed to have fond, loving memories of your him.

  5. Gorgeous, kgirl. I am always so touched by remembrances of this type. There's something so...so...right about leaving a visible, physical mark to signifie the indelible one etched on your heart.

  6. Beautiful. He must have been an amazing man.

  7. They're breathtaking. And perfect. May your sorrow sail away on their wings.

  8. I love that, this physical sign of the weight and geography of grief, and of its eventual - I hope - leaving.

  9. Absolutely stunning and what they represent takes my breath away. You are so beautiful kgirl and I hope this helps lift the grief.

  10. I am so sorry for your loss. Your tattoos are such a wonderful tribute to him.

  11. Beautiful, kgirl, just beautiful. Sending you peace through the miles.

  12. Wow, is that you and are those real?
    (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

  13. Beautiful, just beautiful...your words and the swallows and you.

  14. I saw the picture on Facebook last week and meant to comment then. I read the post the other day and didn't really have the right words because we both know that the words are seldom there...that's why we choose to wear the awe and beauty on our bodies. The swallows are lovely, Karen.

  15. Oh, k. I thought they were lovely before I knew what they were for, but now - so beautiful. Hugs, honey.

  16. So, so beautiful, and such a touching tribute to your dad. I hope you will be able to leave some of your grief behind with this year behind you.

  17. I'm late to comment on this, due to a certain boobie monster around these parts, but I wanted to say how very beautiful these are. And let you know that you are still very much in my thoughts.


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