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Setting Doves Free

A girl balancing in flying crow pose on a yoga mat
Balancing in flying crow pose in a NYC yoga studio

On Halloween, a bunch of my classmates were planning to go out. I really wanted to hang out with friends, go out, and have a good time. At the same time, I didn’t want to. Things just didn’t feel right still. A few people I had told while others I just kept quiet from because I didn’t want to talk about it. It was personal and deep for friends that I had barely begun to just get close to. My world had been turned upside down and when I got back to New York, the world had just… kept going without me as if nothing had happened. I was still learning to cope with that.

I climbed out onto the fire escape and sat, taking in the cool air and watching people come and go on the streets. A few people were dressed up in costumes, others were more straightforward with just wanting to just go out and get hammered. I opened my phone and went through photos from the vigil and funeral. I didn’t really understand why there had been so many photos taken that day since it wasn’t really a day I wanted to remember. Besides, I remembered it all quite vividly anyway. Nonetheless here I was, going through the photos.

I came across the photo of when the doves were brought out towards the end of the burial ceremony. The doves were included in the funeral package we chose, and because of my enthusiasm, my siblings told me that I could be the one to open the cage to release them. My siblings and I had been standing holding hands watching as my dad’s coffin was lowered into the plot. I let go of their hands, not realizing quite how tightly I had been holding onto them. I stepped forward toward the cage as the man opened the top of the cage. He stuck his hand in and grabbed a bird.

“Hold its wings securely and cover its eyes or else it’ll fly away.”


I abruptly stopped my crying, stunned. Everything internally shut down as I focused singularly on the little animal being placed into my hands. I quickly turned back at my siblings and stared at them in my best “what the hell is going on” look. I thought when we chose doves, it meant that we opened the cage and they flew away. When they told us about it, they had shown us a video where someone opened the cage and the doves flew up and away. SO WHAT WAS HAPPENING NOW? I was not mentally, or physically for that matter, prepared to be holding a dove. I didn’t want to squeeze it too tight and make it uncomfortable. And I needed to be careful to cover its eyes so it wouldn’t fly away? So that meant I could potentially mess up the entire service by accidentally letting go of the bird? I mentally kicked myself in the butt for having been enthusiastic about having doves in the first place.

Lucky me, there were a dozen doves so each of my siblings got pulled into suddenly holding a bird too. You can tell by the pictures we weren’t prepared for all that.

I chuckled to myself thinking about that moment and opened up on my phone the speeches that my siblings and I had read at his vigil. It was a reminder of why I had come back to New York City and persisted. After getting tired of being sad, alone, and teary on my makeshift porch, I crawled back through my window and thought about how it was Día de los Muertos. I certainly had someone dead that I was thinking about.

I opened up Netflix on my laptop and Coco was advertised on the top banner. I learned to speak Spanish when I went to Mexico with my dad when I was 15 and stayed with a host family there for a good part of the summer. I usually don’t watch movies I’ve already seen more than once, but it seemed like a good idea and quite timely since Coco was about family and Día de los Muertos and Mexico and I could practice my Spanish again.

“You already know Pixar will be having you in tears” Cayla texted me days later. In short, she was not wrong. She knows her movies.

Sometime during the film, I received a text from my 6th grade teacher Mr. Richie. He had attended my dad’s vigil and was asking how I was doing.

Been thinking of my dad a lot lately. Especially with Día de los Muertos today. But otherwise still adjusting back to school and making up work that I’ve missed.

He responded that he was glad that I was getting stuff done and to let him know if I needed anything.

Thanks Mr Richie, I’ll try

I hesitated before sending a 2nd text, unsure of what he might say.

If you don’t mind me asking, what did you do after you lost your dad?

Up until that point he had been responding instantaneously. And then nothing. Yikes, maybe I shouldn’t have sent that. Or maybe he was just in the middle of doing something. I finished the movie and then still nothing. Welp, I guess that was that…

Around two days later, he texted me in the morning and asked to talk on the phone.

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