If I Were a Physicist

It’s an astonishing thing to lose a loved one. It shatters our emotional life in an unfixable way and we have no choice but to move forward with this new perspective. It’s like a kaleidoscope of grief has been applied to our view of the world. A beautifully complex and ever changing symmetry has been introduced and all of the previously familiar inputs must pass through it. As the cylinder spins, and time passes, we learn to find comfort in the transformations. Our old views become recognizable in the new patterns and we relearn how to navigate the world. Sometimes, though, the cylinder stops spinning and we have to examine a frame very closely in order to get past it. When we do this work, we add color and shape to our kaleidoscope and make it less likely to stall in that same place again.

I guess what I mean is, everything looks and feels different when we lose someone that we love. All of our shared tasks, possessions, relationships, and efforts are transformed. As we encounter each of these elements, however small, we have to process them. Some of these shared elements will pop up again and again, making them less painful with each pass, while others will lay dormant and surprise us unexpectedly. I tried to express this above, but I often get lost in metaphors. I can see it in my head and I can feel the intention, but translating onto the page without making word salad is a challenge.

When Dad passed I struggled to find the right words to use for his memorial and was fortunate to come upon an NPR article by commentator Aaron Freeman that spoke to me. I adapted and personalized Mr. Freeman’s article to create a eulogy to deliver at Don’s Celebration of Life. In working through that exercise and reading it aloud to family and friends, I gave my grief a bit of context and added some critical color and shape to my kaleidoscope.

If I Were A Physicist
Adapted from the NPR article “Planning Ahead Can Make a Big Difference in the End” by commentator Aaron Freeman

If I were a physicist, I would talk to you all about the conservation of energy, so we can all understand that Don’s energy has not left us.

If I were a physicist, I would remind you all about the first law of thermodynamics; that the total energy of the universe is constant – energy can be transformed from one form to another but can neither be created nor destroyed. I would want you to know that all of Don’s energy, every vibration, every BTU of heat, every wave of every particle that was our beloved remains with us all in this world. If I were a physicist I would tell you that amid all of the energies of the cosmos, Don gave as good as he got.

If I were a physicist, I would be able to tell my Mom that every photon that ever bounced off of Dad’s face, all of the particles whose paths were interrupted by his smile, the hundreds of trillions of particles that raced off of him like children when you touched his hair, their direction forever changed – I would let you know that all of those photons that bounced off Dad were gathered in the particle detectors that are your eyes, and they created within you constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

If I were a physicist, I would remind you all how much of all of our energy is given off as heat and I would tell you that the warmth that flowed through Don in life is still here, it’s still a part of all that we are, even as we mourn in the heat of our own lives.

I’m not a physicist, I’m a son and a father-to-be and I know my Dad’s energy is still around, I don’t need faith or religion to know that it’s here. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a single bit of him is gone.