Monday, December 24th, 2012
Grief is debilitating at times and my heart aches for those feeling so much of it this Christmas.
It is difficult to reconcile the hard reality of life that people leave it so suddenly. One minute they are there, and the next they are gone. The only panacea for loss I’ve found is to feel it, live it, and talk about it.
As I was doing some Christmas shopping the other day, a memory surfaced that I haven’t recalled for a long time. The baseball hat in my hand took me back fourteen Christmases ago to the baseball hat I purchased for my dad, a cancer patient undergoing his first round of chemo. The hat was meant to cover his soon to be bald head. He never lost his hair. He never wore that hat. He died that Christmas day.
Fourteen Christmases later, that memory still stops me in my tracks. As with the death of any loved one, you never really get over it; you learn to live with it.
As another year stretches between that memory, I can’t help but think of the milestones logged in those fourteen years that were unattended by my dad. It hurts. Sometimes so much that my heart still feels as stunned and craven as the moment I first learned he was gone.
Becoming a parent made me miss my dad in a way I didn’t know I could.
Having a second child heightens the ache in my heart for him. It’s another unattended milestone. Being a parent makes me need my parents more. I wish I could ask him the hundreds of questions I didn’t know to ask him before he died.
Like any who experience loss, I will never get that chance. Instead of letting that grief, that injustice consume me, I remember what I have learned from loss. This is my one chance, my one life, to let my husband, children, family and friends know how much I love them. I never want it to be a question how much I loved them.
While I still miss my dad, the place in my heart that broke after he died feels a little less sad as I watch my daughter with my husband. Their love reminds me that losing great, means loving great.
As I watch my husband with my daughter, I freeze frame the memory to tell her later, just in case she faces the same heartache of losing her dad too soon.
I’ll tell her how they “wrastled” every night before bed as she ran at him yelling, “I’m gonna knock you down!” and leapt at him in a fit of giggles. I’ll tell her how she use to ask for “silly kisses” as he tickled her with is goatee.
He’s quick to tell her he loves her, but someday, after his passing, his voice and words will be hard to conjure, and while I’m certain she’ll know he loved her, she’ll need these memories to remind her just how much.
It is bittersweet at times to bring another life into this world when one of the people I love the most is not here to share in the joy. However, I know that no matter how robbed I feel at times, I come back to love.
His loss reminds me to say I love you more. To be kinder. To be softer. To be forgiving. To choose joy.
Everyday I tell my daughter, “I’ll keep you forever.” I know that one day we won’t always be physically together, but her memory, her heart, I’ll always carry with me. Just like I do with my dad.
One Christmas, fourteen years ago, took my dad, but it gave me the great gift of gratitude for the moments I do get with the ones I love.
To my dad whom I still miss so deeply, thank you.
During this holiday season, I pray you find peace and happiness. May your heartache, grief, or loss, be a little less as you feel the love of family and friends.