This morning I opened a neglected notebook and found a weekend to-do list I’d written on September 13: the Friday before my Dad died. None of the list items were checked off: apparently I stuck the notebook with its list into my backpack and promptly forgot about it. Now it exists as a curious artifact of the days before grief happened. Who was I when I wrote it, and who is it who has lived my life in my stead since then?

My Dad died on Monday night, September 16; I received word early the next morning. The intervening days have passed in a blur–every Monday, I remind myself where I am in the seven-week cycle of traditional Buddhist mourning–but apart from those weekly signposts, the past few weeks feel timeless and uprooted. Somehow, I am continuing to teach my classes, and somehow, I manage to move through my morning, midday, and evening tasks: the dishes done, the papers (mostly) graded and returned, the dog walked, the lectures somehow planned and delivered. But I have little conscious recollection of how it’s all happening or who it is exactly who is inhabiting my body while my head and heart feel muddled and muffled, as if my soul were swaddled in fluffed cotton.

Seeing that long-forgotten to-do list crystallized this experience–here is a list I don’t remember writing with tasks I somehow did but have no memory of. Today, the tasks I was thinking about the Friday before my Dad died have no relevance: I can’t remember why it was I cared.

The week my Dad died, I taught my classes in a daze, guided through my daily routine by the muscle memory of autopilot. The weekend after my Dad died, I flew to Ohio to be with my Mom and sisters, missing a grand total of two days of classes: one at Babson, one at Framingham State. The saddest day since my Dad died was the day after I’d returned from Ohio and realized I’d have to go back to teaching the next day as if nothing ever happened: the cruel reality of life going on.

This past week I haven’t felt grief-stricken as much as tired: my current mood is exhaustion with a soft center of sadness. I’m sad my Dad suffered, sad he’s gone, and sad I wasn’t there in his final days. I’m sad, too, that I wasn’t there for my Dad for years, ever since leaving for college: my life in six words can be summarized in the sorry sentence, “Left for college, never came home.”

My Dad’s life, on the other hand, could be summarized “Worked hard, and now he’s gone.” I’m not sure whether I believe in heaven and the resurrection of the body; I’m not sure whether my Dad is in a better place, only that he is (finally) free of suffering. In the meantime, I struggle with the way life goes on as if everything were normal, my Dad’s existence crossed off the page like another item on God’s to-list.

I wrote this entry on Thursday, October 3, two and a half weeks after my Dad died, and I’m only now getting around to posting it.