One year ago today, my dad died. I remember it as fresh as if it were yesterday, but I also know the immense pain, grief and loss I have walked through over this last year of so many firsts without my dad.
It feels a bit odd today, I feel like I’m caught between this space of lasts and firsts all melding together. Nothing about this year has been easy. Nothing could have prepared me for losing my dad. Nothing. And I also know that we all grieve in such different ways.
The last few weeks have been not only the emotional pain of coming up on the one year mark, but also this surprising physical pain. Sleepless nights....nights where I was really restless and only able to get about 3 hours of sleep if I was lucky....just like it was when you were sick and I was taking care of you. This fog from the exhaustion and not quite knowing how I was making it through the days, let alone making it through the days productive....much like it was when I was care-giving for you and trying to juggle so many responsibilities at once. The pain in the left side of my throat, it’s a dull ache at times, or a shooting pain at others, but so restrictive...the pain of your tumor like I felt it with you when you were sick. I’ve recognized it, honored it and then reminded it that it could leave....that you were whole and healed now. It’s funny to me all the little, subtle ways that the body remembers what our mind can’t bear to wrap itself around.
I’ve thought about that often throughout this last year....the weight of grief. How hard and heavy it feels. But I’ve also learned how to be so much more compassionate to those in their own grief journey. There’s just this hole in my heart where my dad should be. And this hole in my heart where my dad will always be. I miss the sound of his voice, I miss his laugh, I miss his hugs, I miss holding his hand....I miss how tender he became towards the end. It was this place of knowing our time was short, and yet, not wanting to talk about the fact that he was dying.
It’s been sweet to have all the memories of when I was young come flooding back. All the times we were home together when I was little....the time I wanted to be just like my dad and have coffee...so I poured myself a cup, complete with cream and sugar (dad drank his black) and took one drink and thought it was disgusting, so I poured it back into the pot...he was not so pleased with me.
Or learning how to cook breakfast side by side with him at the age of 4, I’d have a stool at the stove, and then seeing how Grady always sat up on the counter next to him while he would cook him breakfast...Grady still tells me that no one can cook breakfast quite as good as Grandpa.
Or how my Dad would always tease me and say how much do you love me? And I’d stretch my arms as wide as I could muster and say this much! And he’d smile, giggle and hold his thumb and pointer finger about an inch apart and say I love you this much, just to get a rise out of me. Then he’d laugh, stretch his arms wide and say I love you this much my girl! Years later, he found me a little figurine with arms wide stretched that read “I love you this much”, and how I’d give anything to have her now, but I don’t know where she went. But as the last few days have been pain filled, I’ve thought of creating to release some of that pain, and I know that my next painting will be “I love you this much.”
Oh dad, I’m so grateful that your suffering is over. And not just the suffering that cancer brought, but the suffering that living brought. I know you had your demons....we all do...I know that I wish I could have helped you clear your trauma long before the months before your death, but I was just learning how to clear my own. I know how dearly you loved mom, your girls, and your life....even if we didn’t always see it. I know how much pride we brought you. I know that your love for me did not end at your death, but purified. You are whole and complete in every sense of the words. There’s no longer any physical, emotional or spiritual restriction for you whatsoever. And I’m so grateful for that for you. I love you this much dad....for all of eternity. We will let your memory live on through us. And we will remind our kids often of who you were, we will encourage them to remember. And when the tears come Dad, I will be reminded of how lucky I am to have had as much of you as I did, to make missing you so hard, and know that much grief is the price of much love.