Maëlick in the North

Toy Photography in Northern Finland, Sweden and Norway

Memento Mori

This could be the most personal blog post I’ve ever written.

A year ago, my father passed away at the age of 56. Ever since it happened, I’ve wanted to express myself about it in some way. The need to create images. The need to write. But I hadn’t been able to do it.

Relief

Describing how I feel is actually hard as the relationship with my father has been complicated for a long time. I haven’t felt sad, not a single time, since my mother called me to tell me the news.

The sad truth is that my first feeling was relief. If it hadn’t happened, nothing would be better now. But an important burden was gone.

Fear

In many ways, I was ready for this to happen. I had been waiting/expecting it for over 15 years. Over half of my life. Yet, I felt weird in the days that followed. I’m not sure how to describe the second feeling. Maybe it’s fear?

Almost five years ago, I took this photo as part of a series, knowing what would eventually happen.

My mind couldn’t stop thinking and feeling concerned about death. I was constantly asking myself questions like:

What am I doing with my life?
What can I do so that my life doesn’t go to waste?
How can I give it purpose?
How to leave something behind that won’t disappear once I’m gone?

Guilt

This led me to the third feeling: guilt. Not guilt about his death, but guilt about my own life. Ever since it happened, I’ve been feeling a constant need to do meaningful things. Every time I don’t, I feel bad.

Displacement

I have a hard time remembering the good times with my father. To find good memories, I need to go back in time, quite far, actually. The more recent ones are rarely good. And even among the memories from my childhood, the strongest memories are often the bad ones.

I don’t want people to remember me like that. I don’t want to waste my time as he did and barely leave anything behind. My time is limited, and I don’t want someday to have regrets about how I used it.

And while at times it may feel as I’m beating myself, I’m actually also glad to feel like that. I’m glad I have something to keep pushing me, something that makes me want to be creative and avoid slacking/procrastinating for too long.

Anger

The final feeling that appeared was anger. And over time, it became the prevalent one. My father could have done so much of his life, but it all seems like a waste.

3000 km away, just a few days after all the European countries started to close their borders because of the COVID-19 outbreak, I wasn’t able to go back to Belgium for the funerals… And I’m thankful for that. I’m glad I didn’t have to face my family being sad while all I could feel for him was anger and rage.

For the past year, I’ve been having dreams about my father. It’s always the same dream with slight variations. My father is alive, and I yell at him. Yell as much as I can.

When nothing works and you feel Anger against yourself
This photo from SiPgoes52 has rarely been as relevant as it is today.

When I was a teenager, there have been a few occasions where I expressed my anger to my father. This includes two anger outbursts that no one expected and left him speechless. After the last one, I decided I was done being angry (or sad). There was no point in trying to tell him what was wrong. He wouldn’t do anything about it.

But these dreams make me realize that maybe there were a few more things I would have liked to say. Even though I’m pretty confident it wouldn’t have changed anything.

The cautionary tale

I guess I simply have to accept that these nightmares are something I’ll have to learn to live with. There have been times where I hadn’t had that dream for a while, but it eventually always come back.

In the end, I think my father will remain a part of my life. A role model. Not of what I aspire to be, but rather of what I don’t want to ever become. My own personal cautionary tale…

PS: In addition to my recurring nightmares, I also have to thank a recent podcast from David duChemin for finally pushing me to write this post. Thus, I shamelessly decided to reuse the same title…

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