Dead But, Really, Not Gone

On the 30th anniversary of my father’s death

J.D. Harms
6 min readSep 16


Photo by Logan Fisher on Unsplash

It’s probably because we’re at the third decade since my father died that I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. Last month, I wrote a piece reflecting on some of those last experiences I had with him. I’ve felt it’s kind of strange how close he still feels. But now I think I know why.

I mean, of course, the dead are no longer here in body. That lack of tangibility, of physical presence, causes a great deal of grief. Especially when you lose someone important to you as a child. But some realizations have struck me lately that hadn’t occurred to me before.

My mother came home for a visit last month. She’d moved to one of the northern territories of Canada back in January this year. While in some ways it didn’t feel at all like seven months had passed, having dinner with her recently, I made some connections that previously escaped me.

In a quite literal way, my father’s loves, abilities, and talents have been split into four other lives.

That huge event so many years ago:

I don’t think anyone expects to be dead at 35. That’d be a hell of a way to live. At the same time, maybe that’s a good way to live. Recently, I read Michael A. Singer’s book, Untethered Soul, and he says that we’ll live differently, better, if we always live as if it’s our last week on earth. In so many ways, my father lived this.

When he was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, the doctor said, “Quit your job, go to Hawaii; you’ve got three weeks left. Party on.” That wasn’t what he did.

For starters, that wasn’t my father’s idea of a good time. Oh, I’m sure he would have enjoyed the travel, not to party but because he loved adventure. But to be gone from his wife and children for the remainder of his existence? We were the ones he loved! His idea of the “good” wasn’t to abandon us to soak up some wild, new experiences without us. Instead, every time he was out of the hospital, he came home, went to work, played as much as he could.

Imagine: a man with a brain tumor still lecturing English at a university.



J.D. Harms

Former hairstylist, perpetual philosophy student, swallowed by poetry, writing, ideas