Spring of 1995--
By an unhappy twist of fate, the first anniversary of Liana's death falls on Father's Day. We were vacationing together in the Sierra Nevada foothills this time last year, and she and several friends had taken a short drive with two adults to an area where they could swim in the early summer heat. There, in a quiet looking pool in the Yuba River, three of her friends were pulled down by an unseen current. Two of the girls disappeared under the water, and one was pinned to a rock where she was safe, but couldnšt move. Liana, at just 11 years old, the youngest and by far the smallest of the group, went to help them. But no one knew she had until the other three had been quickly saved, and she was nowhere to be found. Several large men nearby joined the rescue effort, and discovered her body pinned against a submerged log. The force of the water was such that five or six men linked together couldnšt dislodge her for over 15 minutes.
While she was dying in the water, I was enjoying the afternoon with other campers, twenty-five miles away. A message somehow reached me that she had been involved in an accident, and I rushed to the county hospital, and found no word on her condition, or even the nature of the accident. Finally, an ambulance came to the emergency entrance, and I followed the paramedics into the hospital, and knelt by her, and spoke to her, and cried for her as the emergency team abandoned their resuscitation efforts and a doctor pronounced her dead. I remained alone with her for about a half an hour.* * *
That first half-hour in this new bleak world has now stretched to a year. No one can be more surprised than I that Lianašs death did not somehow kill me too. With her, I had found a love and companionship I'd never dreamed of; I had always been certain I would fall if I were ever to lose her. Months later, I still struggle daily with this loss, and know I always will; because for me, the love I developed for her can never be expressed in the past tense. Nor will I relinquish the honor of being a father - her father. Society has words to describe other relationships of loss; orphan, widow, but none exist that I know of to describe a childless parent. So, I will proudly retain my fatherhood, and my love for her.
Where she has gone, I cannot tell. My quizzical and skeptical nature has not allowed me easy comforts. I have searched for her, sometimes desperately, or angrily, doubtfully, pleadingly, reverently, or hopelessly. That I have somehow grown in the search surprises me, for I have nothing to report. More than ever I believe that the great mystery reveals us to ourselves, in our search for understanding - rather than revealing literal answers to the questions we desperately seek. Instead of finding faith or knowledge, the comforts I have sought, I have found some comfort in accepting my hopes.
But I am here. Soon a year will have passed. Now, every day will no longer be an anniversary of time we spent together. Nothing dramatic will likely happen to me on Fatheršs Day this year, beyond the pain of my memory. But the passage of a year is more than symbolic. It is a great cycle of our lives. This was a year of deep mourning. I will always mourn, but someday soon I hope, and expect, to find I have started living again. I begin to see that my strength to go on has just about everything to do with the man I became while raising her and knowing her. No matter how much it hurts, I still feel Išm luckiest man on earth to have been her papa for those few years. Whatever has become of her, will someday become of me. I love her more than ever.