Monday, April 11, 2011

The Final Stillness

I was greeted with a beaming smile and tired eyes; there was no hostility present, no anger, just a glowing sense of peace broken up by sudden bouts of pain. This is the last time I saw my father alive.

I never understood him; nobody really did, except for maybe my brother. Other mathematicians and scientists raised their eyebrows and scratched their heads at his musings on existential mathematical theorems. I compared him to other fathers of my friends and took his lack of "normal" behaviors- riding bikes, playing catch, having tea parties- as a lack of love for me. It was in this last moment that I understood more fully that there was never any hatred or resentment towards me; maybe a frustration that I didn't find chess to exciting, and didn't like math. He latched on to anything artistic I did- took me to piano class, encouraged me (for the most part) to dance, encouraged me to sketch.

He was an artist at heart; he only went to MIT because he was one of few people in his school that tested high on an aptitude test and received a full scholarship. Instead of sketching, he now found beauty in numbers, time, space, the Universe... It was all beautiful.

I believe I have talked about the stillness in art modeling before; how it is a sort of meditation. But it is never true stillness- your heart beats, your blood flows, you shift ever so slightly with every breath in and out. The Final Stillness is when none of that energy is present anymore; it has gone elsewhere. But, I guess that even in death, we are slowly changing. It was quite stirring and terrifying to see him in the Final Stillness state; parts of me were sad, but most of me saw that it was a positive and necessary step for his soul.

His funeral was held at a Bulgarian Orthodox church; he had been baptized right before he got sick. He saw beauty in the ceremonies, saw beauty in the music, saw something that made sense; in fact, one of the last things he talked about with me was music. The Father, even though he had only known my father for a year and a half, gave his words; in short, my father tried to talk about existential math and asked questions about God and the Universe, and the Father was at once frustrated and in awe.

I think my mother put it best; he has been seeking answers to all of the questions in the Universe, and now he has them all.

I can never fully explain this process, this experience; nobody ever really can. So, I will end this with a few quotes from "Language in Thought and Action", by S. I. Hiyakawa, a book I found while drifting with my brother:

" word ever has exactly the same meaning twice... First, if we accept that the contexts of an utterance determine its meaning, it becomes apparent that since no two contexts are ever exactly the same, no two meanings can ever be exactly the same... Secondly, we can take for an example a word of 'simple' meaning like 'kettle'. But when Lynne says 'kettle', its intensional meanings to her are the common characteristics of all the kettles Lynne remembers. When Peter says 'kettle', however, its intensional meanings to him are the common characteristics of all the kettles he remembers. No matter how small or negligible the differences may be between Lynne's 'kettle' and Peter's 'kettle', there is some difference." (Page 39)

"In the course of argument, people frequently complain about words meaning different things to different people. Instead of complaining, they should accept it as a matter of course. It would be starling indeed if the word 'justice', for example, were to have the same meaning to each of the nine justices of the United States Supreme Court; then we should get nothing but unanimous decisions. It would be even more startling if 'justice' meant the same to the robber as the robbed." (Page 40)


  1. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing something so close to the heart. I relate closely.

  2. This is a very moving examination of your relationship with your father and his life -- very well written and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Incredibly insightful and moving words... My thoughts are with you.

  4. You're words moved me so elegantly; in the truth we each hear our own meanings to the words.

    I work in Biotechnology when I'm not trying to take pretty pictures, and seeking the answers to all the questions is a daunting task. Very frustrating, when your trying to keep alive a just one cell from a Chinese Hamster Ovary Cell, just to feed it, so it will product a protein that will in the end change someones life into a positive, let alone a cure.

    I will be making a donation, in hopes that someday, a father like yours, will be able to understand all they questions he has about a beautiful daughter like yourself.