Heaven…I’ll Drink to That

My father communicates with me through dreams, feathers and a few other things in between.

This weekend I toasted the afterlife with my dead Dad. Yes, this past weekend my Dad, who is deceased, and I, who am very much alive, toasted his fifth heavenly birthday graveside.

I know to some this might sound insane, but he really does communicate with me and we did toast graveside this past weekend.

You have to understand the strong minded, determined person my father was. The night before he died, I begged him to not leave me and if he had to (like he had a choice) to please send me signs from heaven. He held my hand, smiled, and told me, “Lisa, I will always be with you. When you need me just call my name and I’ll be right there, I promise you.” “Don’t worry and don’t be afraid, Heaven is beautiful and I’ll be right here for you.”

I was terrified because I was not ready to say goodbye and I needed my father’s wisdom and guidance. I STILL need his wisdom and guidance.

He knew I was absoutley heartbroken and terrified and he held my hand even tighter and said, “Even when I’m gone, I will always be with you.”

And my father always was true to his word and I believed him.

The past five years since his passing I have received beautiful signs from my father. There have been moments when I know he’s sitting right next time. Perhaps the greatest sign was when I felt my father wrap his arms around me and shield me from pain during a horrific car accident, during that moment I not only felt him holding me, I smelled him. So, I KNOW he’s always right there with me when I need him most.

Sunday, January 17th was the fifth anniversary of my Father’s passing. I woke up angry, pissed off and really missing my Dad. I have found that no matter how many signs he sends my way I am missing “the big one.” And when I say “the big one” I want to know is he eating again. My father died from Stage IV base of the tongue cancer, he spent the last seven years of his life struggling to eat and the last four year of his life on a feeding tube inserted in his stomach. He was unable to eat or drink anything for the last four years of his life.

The night he before my Dad died I was alone with him in his hospital room and he begged me for a glass of water. I can still hear him whispering to me, “Lisa please just one sip.” I knew that one sip would go directly into his lungs and he would suffer and die. So, I freaked out and denied my dying father a glass of water. You think death is like the movies, loved ones huddle together hugging and crying and the person just peacefully passes on. And while we were gathered as a family the night my father died it was far from a Hallmark movie. It was gut wrenching and painful. I watched my father die yearning for food, a drink. I watched him lay in his bed frail crying for God to please take him. I watched my real-life superhero leave this beautiful earth right before my eyes and I denied him a glass of water.

I have spent the last five years of my life reliving that moment over and over in my head.

I really beat myself up about the glass of water on holidays, special occasions and the anniversary of my father’s passing. So, this past Sunday as I was lying in bed feeling sorry for myself I started a conversation with my Dad and I pretty much demanded a sign from him that he’s “getting drunk in heaven.” I then rolled out of bed and went through the motions of my morning preparing myself to visit the cemetery.

I don’t know about you guys, but I hate going to the cemetery. I’m limited to bringing my father flowers and staring at dirt. It makes me angry. I feel robbed, my father suffered for so long and was ripped away from us piece by piece only to die unable to do what we all take for granted…eat and drink.

Our family owns a beautiful plot in a very well-maintained cemetery. My Dad selected his plot years ago and was thrilled it backed up to an Italian Deli. The irony that he died unable to eat and had such a love for food.

I quietly walked up to my father’s grave surveying the area. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash, and something rolled on my foot. Then, out of nowhere, under my right foot was a tiny bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum. My first reaction was anger. I bent down, picked up the bottle, looked at my husband and yelled, “Is this a joke!! Who is drinking here, why is this here???” I cannot stress to you guys what a well-kept cemetery this is. My husband laughed and said, “You asked for a sign and a bottle of rum landed on your foot. I’d say Big Al is having that drink.”

And then I froze. I blinked, and couldn’t believe my eyes.

I looked up to the sky and said, “Cheers Dad, I hope we are making you proud down here.”

I miss my Dad every single day. I miss the sound of his voice, his fatherly advice, his laugh, the way he could command an entire room as soon as he entered it. Even in death my Dad is still my hero. Even in death my Dad is still there for me, finding ways to remind me that no matter what, he’s still with me, guiding me and protecting me. Even in death he’s proving to me that love never dies and knows no boundaries.

Cheers to you Dad on your fifth heavenly birthday. May your guiding hand remain on my shoulder forever. Thank you Dad, for always reminding me that death is temporary but love is infinite.

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Christmas Feels Different When Your Dad Is An Angel

The death of a parent is an immeasurable blow that stays with us forever.

The past 5 Christmases have been a little quieter and the lights shine a little dimmer now that my Dad is gone.

Even now, I still can’t get my heart around the fact that I will never see him again.

The first few years I tried to distract myself by submerging myself with entertaining on the holidays.

It. Was. Freaking. Exhausting.

This year, our Christmas will be smaller. And it’s forcing me to deal head on with my grief.

This year for the first time in YEARS I listened to Christmas carols and made struffoli.

I cried a little, ok I cried a lot. But then something magical happened…I found joy.

I found joy in the memories of my Dad at Christmas.

As some of my struffoli began to burn I found laughter in thinking of my Dad laughing at my kitchen disaster. My Dad had a laugh that was infectious and a smile that could light up the whole room, and boy did he love to tease us. For a quick second I could HEAR him laughing with me.

As I poured the honey over my struffoli I found joy in knowing I successfully baked a traditional Italian dessert, one that my father loved and enjoyed pretty much every single Christmas until he could no longer do so.

You see, my Dad died unable to eat, and when my Dad lost his ability to eat a piece of me died forever.

He died from Stage IV base of the tongue cancer, he was living on a peg tube inserted in his belly and ALL of his meals were administered via his peg tube.

And I had anger, lots of anger.

Quite honestly, I still do. Let me cue in my inner child and say, “It’s not FAIR!!!!! Why my Dad!!!”

Fad diets piss me off.

I would have sold my soul to the Devil for my father to have just one taste of anything before he died.

Food is a comforting tool of nostalgia.

It’s why we love to overindulge at Christmas. It’s part of celebrating, and it reminds us of the good times with the people we love. And very slowly as I shed some of the layers of my angry grief I am able to remember the foods my father once loved.

It’s taken me years to get to this point, my grief is still messy, chaotic and complicated.

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my Dad or think of his endless suffering. But as my grief evolves I’m finding ways to celebrate his life. You won’t catch me doing a fad diet ever, but you will catch me baking his favorite desserts and smiling at the good times.

The magic of Christmas is slowly returning by sharing holiday traditions with my family and remembering the best of my father and sharing those memories.

The magic Christmas is slowly returning because no matter how sad I become I will always be forever thankful that I’m Al’s daughter and he will live on in my heart as my angel protecting me from Heaven.

“Pain can change you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad change. Take that pain and turn it into wisdom.” Unknown

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This is why we go to funerals

This January will be 5 years my father is gone.

That’s 1,825 days of not seeing my Dad.

That’s 60 long months of not hugging my Dad.

That’s 43,800 hours of not hearing my Dad’s voice.

And despite all of that time passing I can still give you a list of who did NOT attend my father’s funeral.

Yup, you read that right.

In the 5 years of me learning how to live without the man who taught me everything in life but how to live without him I STILL have not forgotten the VERY FEW people who did NOT attend his funeral.

Now, some of you are probably reading this thinking, “how petty!” or “I told you she’s a child.” And I’ll tell you the people thinking that are probably the ones who didn’t attend the funeral or just haven’t experienced grief yet.

I am a firm believer of always going to the funeral. My father taught me that.

The first time I tried to get out of going to a funeral I was 15 years old and it was a close family friend. I wanted to stay home, watch TV and eat cheese puffs. When I pleaded my case as to why I couldn’t go, my father looked at me directly in the eyes and said, “Lisa you’re going to the funeral. We ALWAYS go to the funeral. It’s our last chance to pay respects for the deceased, and we go for the family they need us now more than ever.”

It was an awkward experience for me. I was one of the only kids there. Everyone was sobbing, and I felt out of place. But I held my Dads hand tight and together we made our way up to the family.  I remember whispering, “I’m sorry for your loss.” I also remember the husband of the deceased hugging me tight, almost like he was hanging on for dear life and quietly whispering back, “Thank you.” At the time I couldn’t possibly understand what just happened, I was far to young to understand the impact of attending a funeral.

The family never forgot that we attended and years later thanked me for making time to pay my respects. And when my Dad died almost 20 years later that entire family drove over an hour to attend my dad’s funeral.

It’s pretty simple, when someone dies you make time out of your busy life and go to the funeral.

We go to the funeral even when we really, really don’t want to. We go to pay respects for the deceased, but we also go for the surviving family members.

We go because at some point in life we all experience the horrific pain of death, and when that happens I can promise you the pain is unlike anything you have ever experienced before and you too will be hugging funeral attendees holding on for dear life.

My father died on a snowy January night right before Martin Luther King’s birthday. He died after a long, horrific battle with cancer. He died with my mother, my sister and me holding his hands crying our hearts out.

Planning his funeral was painful despite all the preparations he did beforehand for us. I kept waiting for my Dad to show up to take care of it like he always did. Going through his closet for the perfect suit and tie for people to stand over his casket was gut wrenching. It was especially difficult because my father was gravely ill from cancer and wasn’t able to wear a suit for years. We buried him in his Ugg slippers with the lower half of his casket closed. For some reason I insisted that he HAD to wear his slippers. I think my poor mother was too grief stricken to really care if he had slippers on, so slippers it was. When the moment came for our private family viewing I felt sick. The man in the casket didn’t look like MY father.  His cheekbones were sunk in and his hands were like ice. After about 20 minutes of freaking out that my father was wearing makeup and didn’t look like my father, I pulled it together for the guests to arrive. Despite going to grandparents, aunts, uncles and friend’s funerals burying my father was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I felt dazed and physically ill the entire time. I felt like I was stuck in quick sand, I knew I had to hug and thank all of these incredible people for coming but I felt like I was drowning in my grief. I remember hugging every single person in that room, clinging to them for dear life.

I sat in the front row with my Mom in a daze. At one point I turned around and looked back at all the people waiting to enter and pay respects. The memory of police officers in full uniform saluting my Dad’s casket, friends young and old waiting in line to pay respects not just to my Dad but his wife and children still takes my breath away. It was the most powerful and humbling thing I have ever experienced. Countless inconvenienced people on a Wednesday snowy evening who also believe in going to the funeral.

And THAT my friends is why we go to the funeral in our busy, chaotic lives-we go for the deceased but we also go for the surviving family members.

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For the Fatherless on Father’s Day

Macy’s is having their annual Father’s Day sale, ties for Dad are flying off the shelves.

For the fit Dads, FitBit is offering free two day shipping with some terrific discounts.

Omaha Steaks just emailed me about their incredible Father’s Day sizzling steaks sale.

Treat Dad like a king this year, the options are endless!

But what are the options for the fatherless on father’s day?

What do the fatherless do?

This year, just like the past four I will be visiting my Dad’s grave and place flowers by his headstone.

Sunday will be a difficult 24 hours for the fatherless. You have so much love you want to give your Dad, but sadly he is no longer here to shower him with all the love and adoration that he deserves. The entire day, specifically the commercialized aspect of this day illuminates the absence of him.

For those of you like my husband and one of my best friends who are experiencing their first Father’s Day without Dad the entire day is like riding a rollercoaster without a seatbelt in a thunderstorm and you’re on fire. You quickly go from devastated, to sad, to inconsolable, to devastated, then if you’re like me you laugh at nothing only to return feeling totally devastated. It’s really quite confusing for people who have yet to lose a parent. My advice to friends and family is to just be there, we need you. For my husband, his first Father’s Day without his dad also happens to be his birthday.

Yes, you read that right.

It’s my hubby’s first birthday without his Dad AND his first Father’s Day without his dad.

I mean would you expect anything less from 2020 at this point?

This will be my fourth Father’s Day without my Dad. For me, it’s a time to reflect and to practice gratitude. A time to look up and say, “Thank you for choosing ME to be your daughter.” Full disclosure, I still get angry, and sometimes downright jealous of people who still have their Dad’s. For me, because my father died unable to eat I still get anxious and angry when I see an abundance of food, especially on a day like Father’s Day. I don’t think that pain ever goes away, but somehow, I don’t know how, you just learn how to hide it and live with it.

If I close my eyes tight enough I can see my Dad grilling burgers on Father’s Day with a smile from ear to ear. I can hear him talking and laughing. My Dad had a laugh that was infectious. I think that’s what I miss most, his laugh and his hugs. Two things that meant everything was going to be okay.

My father was my real life super hero. He was larger than life in my eyes and could fix anything. When I was scared he would hold my hand, look me in the eyes and tell me everything, absolutely everything would be okay.

And I believed him.

He loved me when I needed it most. He loved me for me, flaws and all. He was the definition of unconditional love.

This Father’s Day, my gift to my father is to love that way. To love others for who they are, to open my heart and let others know I am here for them. No questions asked, no judgement, just pure unconditional love.

To my husband, my friend and everyone else, know that your father is with you in the twinkle in your eyes and the comfort of your hugs. When you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin it is your father’s smile as he watches you from above. He is with you when you help others and offer advice.

A father’s unconditional love, kindness and wisdom are things that can never be taken away even when he is gone. Our father’s never really leave us. We are a part of them, and they are forever a part of us.

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Please Take The Photo

dadJanuary is a difficult month for me.


My father died on January 17, 2016.

It was the day my entire world shattered.

It was the day I lost my voice and a piece of my heart shattered, forever.

My Dad was on hospice when he died, he was weak and frail. I remember him struggling to even change the channel on the remote. Getting out of bed to use the bathroom required patience and skill. I would visit him every single morning in the hospital before work then sit in my car sobbing my eyes out.

This photo was taken exactly four years ago. Not realizing how “sick” my father looked, I posted it to Facebook only to receive lots of judgement. Judgement from people who were too busy to visit or perhaps didn’t realize how ill he was. I don’t know what it was, and four years later I could care less. My father was dying and I was desperate to keep his memory alive, to preserve him regardless of how we looked.

Within seconds of posting the texts came in.

“Why would you post a picture of your Dad looking so sick?”

“Your Dad got so skinny!!!”

“You look exhausted!”

My Dad was on hospice and he was dying. Unfortunately, there is no filter for death and dying.

This photo is one of the last memories I have of my father.

This photo is all I have left of the man who raised me.

Take the photo, one day he will be gone, and that photo will be all you have left.

Take the photo.

Take the photo to remind you how brave he was and how fiercely he loved his family. All I have left are pictures to remind me of the incredible man who raised me. I zoom in on his smile to see if I have his smile. I zoom in on his hands to remind me of the hands that guided me throughout life.

Take the photo.

Please take the picture and share that picture.

Don’t worry about what others think or say, my guess is that they are unable to comprehend how painful grief is. Just take the picture. You will thank yourself someday.


The Day Jesus Took The Wheel

back view beach clouds dawn

Photo by Riccardo Bresciani on Pexels.com

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

And that moment happened three weeks ago.

My father taught me everything I needed to know in life. He taught me how to dance, he taught me the importance of self-respect, he taught me how to be kind and compassionate and like many Dads, he taught me how to drive.

My Dad was a car guy, I remember being a young girl and he would sit me on his lap and let me “drive” in parking lots while we waited for my Mom in the store. This was the 80’s so that was normal back then, now not so much! But you get my gist.

When I was of driving age, my father taught me how to drive. Rule number one, always wear your seat belt. Rule number two, keep both hands on the wheel. My Dad was an excellent driver, he had lightning fast reflexes and eyesight like a hawk. He also had an undeniable belief that he owned the road. With my real life superhero by my side I learned how to navigate myself through traffic and never be afraid.

When I passed my driving test and he handed me the keys to the car, I remember my father telling me, “Lisa Mia, it’s not you I’m worried about it’s the other drivers on the road. You must have eyes all over, always drive defensive. Please honey, be careful.”

Years have passed since then and I’ve always considered myself a safe driver. Driving is when I have my alone time and I think. Driving is when I think of my Dad.

Three weeks ago, my entire life changed in the blink of an eye.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

It was a normal Saturday morning, I was on my way to do my normal boring Saturday morning routine, when I realized I forgot my cell phone at home. I was about a block away from my house, so I made the decision to return home to retrieve my cell phone. A decision I will regret for the rest of my life.

I put my blinker on, looked like I always do, and then something happened. I saw all white and instantly I felt my father’s presence – perhaps the strongest since his death three years ago.

For a brief moment I felt strong arms wrap around my body.

I wasn’t afraid because I felt surrounded by pure unconditional love. There are no words to accurately describe the love I felt surrounding me at that exact moment. I didn’t hear tires screeching or feel an impact, I only saw white. And then I realized I smelled smoke and my car was in the middle of a busy road. I saw people gathering on the sidewalk and I felt confused, I started to remember feeling a slight impact, I thought I was rear ended. A woman in a minivan slowed down, rolled down her window and yelled to see if I was okay. I couldn’t understand why so many people were coming to help me. I was only tapped, or so I thought. And then I realized my air bags were open. ALL OF THEM WERE OPEN ON THE DRIVERS SIDE OF THE CAR. And burning, I smelled something burning. Was there a fire? Oh God, please not a fire, I need to get out of here. Then my left eye started to hurt, REALLY HURT, and my vision was blurry. The entire left side of my face began to throb.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I took a deep breath and I quickly looked around.  I wiggled my fingers and toes, I recited the Our Father in my head. I then screamed at the top of my lungs for God and said, “Dear God please give me the strength.” My vision was so blurry, and the smell was awful, the burning, where was it coming from? I realized I needed to open the door and get out of my car. With all my strength I pushed open my car door and made my way across the street.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

“You’re going to be okay, I am right here with you.” is what I heard in my head and I knew it was my father. It felt as if someone was guiding me across the street, helping me. Confused, because I still thought I was rear ended, I made my way across the street and turned to I looked at my car.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I saw my wheel torn off, pieces of my car all over the road, plastic pieces everywhere, a puddle of fluid under my car. My airbags were deployed. I couldn’t believe all of that “stuff” came from my vehicle. The sight of my car made my entire body began to tremble, I could not believe my eyes.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I made my way to a man standing on the side of the road with some other people.  The man offered me his hand and smiled at me. I looked at the Good Samaritan and between tears I said, “How is this possible? I thought I was rear ended, I was going home for my phone. I have to call my husband, I need my husband.” And then I started to cry while I stared at the heap of metal that was once my car in the middle of the road. The Good Samaritan looked at me and smiled, “You’re lucky to be alive, you can use my phone.”  He was so calm and reassuring. I remember trembling so badly that the Good Samaritan had to dial the phone. I remember him smiling at me saying, “You’re safe now, the police are here.” And he left. I’m so thankful that this stranger stopped what he was doing to wait with me for help to arrive.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

As the police began to pull up, I noticed a woman on the other side of the road. She was frantically waiving her arms, screaming for me. She was screaming, “You guys have the Boston Terrier! I’ll go get your husband!” She ran to my house to get my husband. I wish I knew her name, I only know her because I have noticed her walking her dog the weeks leading up to my accident. Now, a few weeks post-accident and I have yet to find that woman to thank her. My husband and I look for this woman daily, we want to thank her for her act of kindness.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

Despite all the chaos that Saturday morning, but I could feel my father’s strong presence. I could feel my father’s protection and love, but I felt something else, something even more powerful. I felt God’s love and protection that morning.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

I remember being loaded into the ambulance feeling shaken up but so incredibly thankful and blessed as I watched the mangled wreck that was once my car fade in the distance. I remember closing my eyes and quietly thanking God for being with me that morning and protecting me.

There are moments during my grief journey that I am positive my father is guiding me and comforting me.

Life can be messy and chaotic and we never know what tomorrow will bring. But through it all there is a God up there and God is good all the time, His grace and mercy are boundless. He is so willing to forgive, so eager to answer prayer, and so ready to bless us beyond what we deserve or hope for. I cry when I think of what happened to me a few weeks ago, I am forever thankful for all of the blessings bestowed upon me. And someday when God calls me home, I hope to tell Him in person, “Thank you God for being so good to me.” 

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“I’ll Have A Blue Christmas Without You”

rainy-83136_1280Christmas is a time when friends and families come together. It is also a time when the absence of family can be more keenly felt.

When I first lost my Dad almost three years ago I remember returning to work feeling lost. I remember arriving at work one morning sitting in my car staring at my office building. It was bitter cold morning in January and I sat in my car for what seemed like forever staring into the horizon. I felt lost and totally alone. I was heartbroken, angry, sad and devastated all at once. I was unable to control my emotions and I did not like it one bit. I felt as if my entire body was being weighed down by enormous bricks and I was sinking fast.

I spent much of my first year of grief in a fog, often getting sucked into tidal waves of sadness. Many times, I felt as if I was standing on the edge of a black hole with one foot in and the other slowly slipping away.

The entire holiday season has amplified my grief, bringing me back to that cold January morning. The twinkling lights, festive songs and the constant pressure to be happy often knocks me off my feet. I often find myself daydreaming throughout the season. I watch my friends with their fathers and I think about how much my Dad is missing, and how much I miss my Dad.

Just yesterday I received an email from Macy’s with incredible bargains for Dad this Christmas, and I began to wonder do they have a bargain for the deceased Dad? If my Dad was alive would I be purchasing him yet another pair of pajamas, or an ugly sweater for him to return? I like to think my Dad is watching from Heaven, and how he’s finally pain free, but somehow, it’s not the same as him being here with us.

I miss my Dad every day, but Christmas is especially difficult. My Dad was the life of the party, he was the loudest, funniest, most loving person in the room. He was filled with joy and now there is a huge hole in our lives.

I am learning that the best way to cope with grief is to talk about the person you have lost. Surround yourself with caring, empathetic individuals. Be prepared for periods of normality, and then, sometimes out of the blue or during special occasions, intense emotions. You will never truly get over your loss but there is great comfort in talking about your loved one and keeping their memory alive.

Christmas has a nostalgic pull for anyone who is grieving. It’s easy to become cocooned this time of year and want to hibernate in your bereavement bunker.  But the person you  lost would want you to carry on.  Be gentle with yourself and take it slowly through the days leading up to Christmas. It may not be the same Merry Christmas it once was, but it can be a new holiday wrapped up in memories of someone very special. Take time to hold family close and remember the ones you lost. That’s exactly what I will be doing this year.

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Sometimes Grief Tastes Like Chocolate Ice Cream

candy sugar party colorful

Photo by Calebe Miranda on Pexels.com

“Daddy, can we go for ice cream?” The answer was always yes. Even when I didn’t finish my dinner the answer was yes.

This was our ritual for years throughout my childhood.

When I was young, I thought all fathers took their daughters for ice cream at least once a week.

When the summer evenings became hotter and hotter, my Dad would pile us up in the car and take us to Carvel for ice cream.

Take me into a Carvel and I am immediately transported to my childhood. My senses begin to dance with the aroma that I can only describe as sweet vanilla heaven. Even if I’m not hungry once I step foot into a Carvel ice cream shop I find myself wandering around for a scoop of ice cream feeling like a 5 year old little girl again.

When my father lost his ability to eat from his cancer treatments, I lost a tremendous piece of me. Watching a parent endure a horrific illness is one of the most difficult things in the world. I stopped going into Carvel, stopped indulging on delicious treats. I spent four long years watching my father survive on a feeding tube. For a very long time I walked around angry, and because ice cream was such a big part of my childhood memories, Carvel became an innocent victim.

Grief makes a simple trip to a place like Carvel anything but simple. Carvel was loaded with landmines that I was not ready to face. Abandoned rituals that were once fun are common in the land of grief.

But last week, for the first time in a very long time I stepped foot in a Carvel. Just walking in there was a major accomplishment. I was positive the entire store could hear the sounds of my heart breaking all over again. Tears quietly began to roll down my cheek past my dark sunglasses. My hands began to tremble as I remembered what once was. And suddenly my grief let go for a moment and I was able to remember my Dad as he was. I was able to remember my Dad before the cancer took over. I could see my Dad standing before me, smiling and healthy. And somehow I was able to stand in Carvel and smile as memories of my Dad came rushing in.

Eventually the tight grip of grief will let go, even if for just a brief moment and you too will be able to remember your loved one as they once were.

My Dad is no longer here, but I raise my ice cream cone to him. Chocolate ice cream with sprinkles brings me back to the sweet, cool, creamy taste of a simpler time.

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Dear Friends, Take The Photos!


Lisa & Dad 1975

Yesterday I struggled to find a photo of my Dad and me.

I’m working on a new and exciting project to help raise awareness for dysphagia, the disease that stole my father’s quality of life and eventually my Dad from us. While a part of me was over the moon that I was selected for this incredible honor I struggled.

See, my Dad is now gone two long years, he was gravely ill for the last four years of his life and housebound the final two. All of our photos are hospital selfies. For the last four years of my father’s life I didn’t have the luxury of taking him out to a nice restaurant, or attending events with him. He was too sick.  At first I had family members scold me for taking such unflattering photos of my Dad. How dare I share such photos! I probably should have dragged him outside and filtered the heck out of those photos. Maybe photoshop him at a NY Yankee game. Right? Wrong. My Dad was so ill just walking to the bathroom was a chore for him. Those hospital selfies were the best we could do. So, to the people who were “offended” sorry not sorry I photographed my father so I could remember every single second I had with him.

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Lisa & Dad 2014

What you will see from our photos are portraits of my Dad and me as we care for each other on bad days and bond together as father and daughter on the good days. One thing is for sure – I adore my father and he loves me. And that is the best medicine you can get.

My extraordinary relationship with my father will live forever in my photographs.

Friends, take the photos. It doesn’t matter if you are all dressed up, feeling frumpy or in the hospital.

Take the photo. When you are gone you family will want those photos. Take the photo.

Messy hair, hospital gown, endless tubes, and beeping machines – those things won’t matter when you are gone. I promise you, your children won’t notice those things. What they will notice is your kind, loving eyes and that you took the time to take the photo.

See, to me my Dad was a real life superhero. I never once looked at him and saw a sick, frail guy. I saw my father the man who protected me my entire life. Even when his cancer had him at his worst I saw the man who was my first love and greatest protector in life. I saw my Dad.

So someday when you are not here what will matter is that even during your worst moments you loved your family enough to preserve that moment and capture your endless love.  If a picture is worth a thousand words when someone is alive, imagine the value when the person is gone.

No family wants to look back into time at endless hospital selfies, but this is my story and these are the cards I was dealt. What matters to me now that my father is gone is that he loved me so much that he was willing to capture our moments together even in the hospital on his worst days.

It’s true, father does know best. Mine certainly did because he knew I would cherish our precious photographs for the rest of my life.

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Lisa & Dad 2015

Why I Won’t Apologize for Choosing Happiness


I admit it…I’m the glass is half full kinda girl you know the one who makes lemonade when life hands you lemons. I’m the girl who is always taking pictures and posting them on Facebook. I take pictures of my food, I posted 9 million wedding photos and a zillion more photos of my dog being amazing. I even took photos throughout my father’s illness, it was not a happy time but I knew someday he would not be here and someday (now) those photos would be all I have left of him.

And I will not apologize for it. Ever.

I’m sure people have ignored me, blocked me or unfriended me. That’s fine with me. I still won’t apologize. I’ve never been one to really care what others think of me, and because we live in a tell all social media world each of us has the right and the responsibility to take charge of what we put online.

I believe that I am in charge of my own happiness. What I say determines how my life will unfold. I won’t apologize for choosing happiness. I won’t apologize for being positive. This is the life I want to live and the life I want to share. I watched my father, my real life super get ripped apart by cancer. I held his hand until he took his last breath and not a day goes by that I do not miss him. I will always honor my father’s memory by choosing happiness, it’s what he wanted. Choosing to constantly critique other’s flaws is a reflection of you and your own insecurities, and not how I choose to spend my valuable time.

My father spent the last four years of his life unable to eat or drink orally. Sitting at the table with someone unable to eat is heartbreaking and devastating, but my Dad always chose to smile and be thankful for time with his family. If I just enjoyed an amazing meal with my husband I will share it and be thankful that I’m healthy enough to enjoy it. I won’t complain about the calories and punish myself. If we get a blizzard in March, I’m thankful to see the snow glistening off the branches. I choose where I live and I choose to celebrate all seasons.

I share photos with my husband and our friends being fancy, silly, smiling and enjoying life. Our life is an incredible blessing and I choose to savor the good times. If we have a disagreement that stays behind closed doors and that isn’t something I choose to share, because I don’t want to stay trapped in that moment.

By trial and error I have learned what to share and not to share. When I am down and feeling  broken those are feelings I only share with my inner circle, with the people who I know will hold my heart with extreme care and not trash it.

Yes, I am a grief writer and I talk extensively about my grief. It is possible to write about heart breaking grief and still try to find the beauty in life. It’s what our loved ones would have wanted. It’s what I do every single day. Every single day I honor my father’s beautiful memory by always choosing happiness, even during the difficult times.

Life is beautiful because you believe it’s beautiful, and the more you showcase the beauty the more you inhabit it.

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You Were Here…And Now You’re Gone

pexels-photo-105857.jpegYou were here, there and everywhere with me.

We shared private family jokes. We were friends, enemies, teammates and competitors.

You were here to take silly selfies, laugh and cry with me.

You were here to send text messages and discuss our day.

You were here to offer advice on clothing, makeup and hair.

Your laughter was infectious, your smile stunning.  Your presence glorious as you entered the room.

You were here to hold, to touch and then just like that you became a memory.

I miss you every single day.

I think about our last conversation and wonder…will you remember how much I love you, how I valued our relationship?

If my love could have saved you, you would be here.

We never really thought you wouldn’t be here, with us where you belong.

You were here for the small, uneventful moments as well as the significant life events.

My grief was thrust upon me without warning.

My grief is dark, tragic, messy and painful.  There are moments my grief completely knocks me off course leaving me feeling vulnerable, lonely and confused.

You were here and now you’re gone.

The pain is brutal and debilitating at times. This thing called grief can be incredibly isolating and empty at times. Despite the people surrounding me no one really knows the constant ache in my heart.

Things unfinished, words unspoken, a young life unlived.

You were here, there and everywhere and now you’re gone.

We were a dynamic duo, except I wasn’t your equal. You were the brains, the beauty and the laughter. I was the assistant, your accomplice.

We had an unwritten agreement to enter old age together, sipping hot cocoa by the fire reminiscing about the good ole days.  And now you’re gone, and I’m here alone awkwardly wandering through life without you.

But I am still here.

I am still here to be your living, breathing legacy.

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Embracing 2018 – 10 Grief Resolutions

Image-1The New Year often symbolizes a new beginning, but for those of us who are grieving the new year can represent yet another long year without our loved one.

New Years Eve was never really a big deal to me.  I would go out with friends but at midnight for as far back as I can remember, regardless of how old I was, I would receive at text from my Dad that said, “Happy New Year honey, we love you.”           

2017 was different, my father died January 17, 2016.  At midnight the following New Year there was no text from Dad.  The text I took for granted for so long was now just a fond memory.  The last day of that year meant entering a year that my father would never see.  A heartbreaking year of watching my mother learn how to live without her soulmate.  A year of being fatherless, wondering if this new gaping hole in my heart would ever stop hurting.  A year of so many tears that I was positive my eyes would dry out.

2017 was a beautiful, messy, chaotic year combined with overwhelming sadness and extreme happiness. 

I married the last love of my life without the first love of my life there.  I survived the trials and tribulations life so often throws into our paths without my father, the man I went to for everything.  I’m learning that if I can survive my wedding day without my father by my side I don’t really care who does or doesn’t like me.  I can’t be everyone’s cup of coffee and that’s okay.

I am not a big fan of new year resolutions.  It’s my opinion that they can be a tremendous disappointment if and when we fail to stick to them.  If you can be a better version of yourself right now why wait until the first of the year to do it?  Who doesn’t want to be a healthier, happier, more efficient version of themselves?

But what if we made a grief resolution?  What if we give a voice to our grief journey so that we may begin to heal?

We all grieve, but we all grieve differently.  It doesn’t matter if you lost your loved one this year or years ago, it is essential to remember that where there is great love, there is great grief.

Below are some grief resolutions I came up with and I hope they will help you as we embark on this new year together.

  • Say their name, scream their name from the rooftops if you must.  But never stop saying their name.
  • Be open to happiness – finding joy in life does not mean you are forgetting your loved one, it means you are honoring the life they lived and the role they played in your life.
  • Be honest about how your feel with yourself and others – if you are upset or something triggers your grief let friends know.
  • Practice self care daily – even if this is just a ten minute walk around the block, self care is the key to healing.
  • Spend more time with family and friends.
  • Create new traditions honoring your loved one.
  • Keep your distance from toxic mean spirited people, they only steal your sunshine and hinder your healing.
  • Stop saying “I’m fine” if it’s not true.
  • Volunteer with an organization or cause that your loved one believed in.
  • Seek grief counseling if needed.


We all yearn for what we have lost. But sometimes, we forget what we have.”  Mitch Albom

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Please Do Not Buy Me Presents For Christmas. Let’s Try This Instead.


Photo Credit:  Pexels

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Christmas is the time of year where we eat, drink and be merry. And if you’re fortunate enough, once you hit a certain age loved ones still buy you a little something to open up too.

This past weekend I cleaned out my bathroom cabinet and it looked my own personal  episode of Hoarders the Bath and Body Works edition. After some sorting and organizing, I now have a tremendous box of sprays, lotions and  body wash I’m donating.

Wait, what? 

Before you roll your eyes and go all keyboard cowboy on me let me explain.

I like winter candy apple, vanilla bean noel, cotton candy kiss and whatever else cutesy scents Bath and Body Works thinks of. But I like it for about 15 minutes because that’s how long it takes for my headache to kick in. For a short time I would keep a spray or two in the glove box in my car and another one in my office because I have so many.  My sea of body sprays was built on good intentions and love but now I’m drowning in it.  Quite honestly if I get one more spray that I have to cram into the bathroom cabinet I’m going to scream or just set fire to the entire bathroom.

Society teaches us to express our love by giving presents. This reality rings especially true during the holidays.  It kicks off immediately following Thanksgiving dinner with thousands of people literally trampling one another for a good Black Friday sale and continues throughout the season.

I am incredibly blessed. I am surrounded by the kindest, most loving people who either think I smell or want to see Christmas in my eyes with their generous gift.

But please do NOT buy me any more body sprays.

None of us really needs more stuff. We need human connections, trust, loyalty, companionship. We need real conversations. You know the old fashioned pick up the phone and talk to someone conversation.  We need to respect a difference of opinion and to love thy neighbor.

The best present is simply being present.

We believe thoughtful presents take the place of our thoughtful presence. This year, let’s share a different gift with those we love—our entire, genuine self without distractions.

Still want to bring something?

Do this instead…bring a bottle of wine or a box of hot chocolate and come join me by the fire. Let’s talk without technology. Let’s turn off the wifi, put away the cell phones and pay attention to one another.

When you’re completely focused in the moment—no phone, no social media, no TV, no internet, no distractions—it creates an unforgettable difference in the lives of the people around you. When you’re fully present, your love shines.

I promise if we do this instead, together we will create priceless memories.

Tree Hot Chocolate Hot Cocoa Still Life Christmas

Photo Credit:  Max Pixel

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50 Shades of Grief


Photo Credit:  Pixabay

It’s the most wonderful, bittersweet time of year again.  The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. Everyone is making their lists and checking them twice.  This is the time of year that we surround ourselves with friends and families partaking in joyous celebrations. But for those of us who are grieving, our emotions are magnified.


You want to be jolly, but there is another part of you that is drowning in massive waves of grief.  Grief can be debilitating, especially this time of year.  For so many, the holidays become a painful reminder that someone we love is gone forever.

There is nothing holly or jolly about grief.  There are no Christmas grief carols.  My words are meaningless and annoying to countless individuals.  Many readers will probably scroll past this article and roll their eyes at another depressing story clogging their newsfeed during the most wonderful time of the year. This article will be passed for the new invisible box challenge, their Elf on the shelf being silly taking shots of fireball, some new weight loss craze, anything but grief.  Many readers will scroll past it until they face a holiday season alone, and when that happens they will desperately want to know if what they are feeling is normal.

Grief makes non grievers uncomfortable because it forces everyone to think about their own mortality. Holiday grief is downright annoying for non grievers, because death puts a real damper on anything holly and jolly.  It is easier to ignore the grieving this time of year and tell them they should be “over it” by now.

Burying your emotions with the dead is not only wrong, it is unhealthy.  Christmas is the season to rejoice and for someone grieving sharing warm memories of their beloved brings a tremendous sense of comfort.  The greatest gift you can give a grieving person is to let them know that they can cry on your shoulder and not be embarrassed to unveil their many shades of grief.  An even greater gift is to hold their hand, listen and shed tears with them over their loss.  This simple gesture shows your friend that they are not alone in missing their person of significance.

This is my second Christmas without my Dad and I’m here to tell you society has no clue on how to handle grievers and it is even worse during the holidays.

Death will change and rearrange your holiday card list.

You will see people for their true colors after a death.  You will experience fair weathered friends, selfish friends, friends who are extremely uncomfortable by your grief, clueless friends and those who are just not ready to comprehend the gravity of your loss.  But that’s okay because you will make new friends, relationships will strengthen and you will be awed by how loyal and loving some people can be.

Humanity will constantly surprise you as you walk your grief journey.

You are expected to mourn the first few days, maybe weeks then move on.  There is no place for the dead at Christmas dinner so please bury the dead forever.  Do not, I repeat do NOT say their name.  After the first year it makes others uncomfortable if you continue to say their name, so just don’t do it.


Don’t just say their name; scream their name from the rooftops if you must.  It is not only okay to say their name, it is normal and healthy.

The reality is that each and every one of us will endure some form of loss in our lifetime.  It’s going to hurt, it’s going to bring you to your knees and it’s going to change you in some way, shape or form.  You will lose friends, but you will make friends.

Grief is that ugly sweater Aunt Carol gives you every Christmas.  Grief is messy, complicated and comes in all different shades.  If you are like me, you start out your grief journey walking around in a thick fog, numb and confused.  As time goes on reality sets in that your person of significance is gone forever.  An agonizing anticipation that your person is missing now accompanies the best of times.  Simply put, there are times when Christmas is hard.  There are times when the rush of emotions from the holiday season is exhausting, emotional and painful.

Someone you love died, and the holidays will never be the same.  Sorry to be the Grinch, but it’s a new, painful reality.

So please, if someone is wearing Aunt Carol’s ugly sweater, say their name and handle with care.  Help us create new traditions and find a reason to celebrate this season.

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The Lies They Tell Us about Grief


Photo Credit:  Pixabay

Grief is a natural reaction when we suffer the loss of a loved one.  Unfortunately our society has no idea on how to handle grief and how to treat someone who has just suffered the loss of a great love.

For starters when someone dies we say passed, transitioned or whatever else comes to mind.  When my father died I had an older relative (bless her soul) reprimand me for saying my father died.  What is wrong with the word dead?  Last time I checked that’s what he was dead.  But for some death forces us to think about our own mortality, our own failures in life and that’s just too much to handle.  So instead we fluff our words, walk on eggshells and avoid saying trigger words.

Something happens when someone you love dies.  If you are like me and you are forced to watch your real life super hero suffer it changes you.  You feel helpless as you watch someone you love slowly fade away.  When your person dies so does a piece of you.  You are left with a tremendous hole in your heart.  Your soul weeps and no matter what you do there is no way to comfort it.

As you begin to walk your grief journey well meaning friends repeat the myths they have heard or the lies that were told to them when they suffered a loss.  They know no other way because our society knows no other way.  Society wants us to get over it and move on, and if we can’t get over it they want us to put on a pretty grief mask when we are out in public.  Grief is the elephant in the room wearing a pink tutu that no one wants to acknowledge.  But the truth is where there is great love there is great grief that lasts a lifetime and us grievers desperately want to acknowledge it.

Below are some of the lies we encounter throughout our grief journey:

  1.  You must stop living in the past and move on

This is something we love to tell our widowed community.  As a grieving daughter I cringe when I hear people tell my newly widowed mother to “move on.”  People who tell someone grieving to move on do not know loss.   They say ignorance is bliss and in this situation it sure is.  It’s easy to tell a heart broken widow to move on when you’re going home to your significant other.  Think about the irony of that and how hurtful it is.  Instead of telling Peggy to move on try saying, “I have no idea how you’re feeling but I’m here for you.”

Remembering our loved ones keeps their presence with us and is a way of honoring them and a way of honoring our feelings.  It keeps the love alive.

2.  You need to get over it

No one has the right to tell you how you feel.  There is no time stamp on grief.  There is no normal way to grieve.  Our grief is as unique as a snowflake.  You do not have to get over it.

3.  You really shouldn’t talk about him or her so much

As long as I have breath in me I will be my father’s living breathing legacy.  I write to keep my father’s memory alive.  The only people who cannot bear to hear you speak of your beloved are those who are unable to accept their own mortality.  What better way to honor a beautiful life than to extend all the love we can no longer give our loved ones to others?  Talking about our loved ones creates legacy for our loved ones in a world that would rather bury its emotions and move on.

These are just some of the myths that we are told while grieving a great loss.  The truth is no one can understand what you lost.  No one can understand the searing pain you are feeling in your heart.  No one can understand that there are times you want to die as well; no not because you are suicidal but because you yearn to hear your loved ones voice one more time, to hug them one more time or to tell them you love them one last time.  Death is final, grief lasts a lifetime.

It is true, where there is great love there is great grief.  And what a privilege it is to love that deeply.

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Forever and Always – Why I’m Still Proud To Be A Daddy’s Girl


Dad & Lisa way back when

I’m a grown up.  No really I am!  I thought once I was old and married I would stop telling the world what a Daddy’s girl I am.  But as I have grown up and my life has evolved I’m even more proud to label myself as a forever daddy’s girl.

My father was an all star baseball player, I have magnificent memories of watching my father from the stands yelling, “That’s my Dad!” After each game we would head to Carvel for my usual, chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles.  He wanted me to share his passion for baseball and he tried to teach me despite the fact that I didn’t have an athletic bone in my body.  That was okay though, my Dad found other ways to strengthen our father daughter bond throughout my life.

With a lot of patience my father did manage to teach me how to throw a baseball.  He also taught me how to dance while standing on top of his feet, how to drive, and he taught me that no breakup was worth endless tears.  Perhaps one of his greatest lessons was the importance of respecting myself while respecting others. I could always count on his words of encouragement or suggestions for improvement while he was waiting for me on the sidelines throughout my entire life.

I am without a doubt my father’s daughter. We share the same smile, the same eyes and the same sense of humor. We are, without a doubt, “cut from the same cloth.” Being labeled as “Al’s daughter” is one of the greatest blessings in my life.


The number one reason why I will always be my father’s daughter is because he was my first love.

My father dedicated every second of his life since the moment I was born to being my protector, my friend, my advisor and my toughest critic.  Because my father was such a good listener he always made me feel like everything I was saying was important – at least to him!  And because of that he always made me feel important.  There is no greater gift than that.

My father taught me how to be resilient and tough, even during the darkest moments of my life.  Even as my father’s life was coming to end and I cried and begged him not to go (like he had a choice) I remember him smiling and telling me, “Lisa honey I will always be with you, I promise.” He helped me become the fiercely independent woman I am today because he needed to be sure I would be able to protect myself when he was no longer around to do so.

During the final days of my father’s life I asked him, “Dad can I get you anything?” His response, “Just be happy and kind.” I was not expecting a response like that.  I wanted to get him more pillows or perhaps another blanket.  Or maybe he wanted me to rub his back because those darn hospital beds are so uncomfortable.  His answer confused me at the time, how could I be happy while my beautiful father was dying in front of my eyes?  My heart was breaking into a million pieces and being happy was not an option.  But now looking back I know that even while facing death my father was putting my needs first, by offering his advice and wisdom.  And that is why I will always be a very proud Daddy’s girl.

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I Became A Better Person The Day My Father Died


Photo Credit:  Maxpixel

Do you have a moment in your life when everything came to a screeching halt and life as you knew it changed instantly?  I do.  It was January 17, 2016  in the wee hours of the morning.  I watched my father take his final breath and leave this place we call earth.  This moment has played over and over in my mind.  If I close my eyes tight enough I can still feel his protective grip as we held hands one last time. Regardless of how old I was, or how sick my father became, the strength of my father’s hands symbolized a sense of security, power and protection for me.  I studied his hands that night knowing I would never see them or him again.  I can still feel the agony of my heart shattering as I watched him leave his earthly body and ascend to Heaven.

My Dad was sick for seven long years, the last four years of his life he was housebound barely surviving.  His pain management was a failed attempt by doctors to give him some sort of quality of life.  Many times I would walk into the room to find him screaming in pain, begging God for mercy.  My heart still breaks when I think of this memory and my eyes begin to flood with tears.

For four long years my father was unable to eat a morsel of food or drink an ounce of liquid – he survived on a peg tube inserted in his stomach.  I vividly remember my father’s strong hands trembling in pain, his body becoming weak and frail.  I’m still angry that my father had to suffer endlessly.  There is no reason for anyone to suffer from life changing illnesses, there is no reason for anyone to suffer period.  As I watched my father deteriorate before my eyes, I felt robbed of things that seemed so basic.  Family meals, going out to dinner, and eventually just a simple conversation became too cumbersome for my father.  Life can be so unfair sometimes.  Until a basic human need is ripped away from a loved one and there is nothing you can do to help them it’s difficult to imagine how precious life is, how valuable your health is.  You begin to see how trivial some things are.  The problems you had pre illness now seem laughable and manageable.

I was given front row seats to watch cancer slowly dismantle my father.  In case you didn’t already know this, cancer is the biggest bitch on the planet.  Like a thief in the night cancer slowly stole pieces of my father until he couldn’t even get out of bed and we had to assist him with the most basic tasks.  I remember helping my father use the restroom during the final days of his life.  He cried and apologized to me, he was horrified that his daughter had to help him use the restroom.  I held back tears and told him that’s what adult children are for and I will love him forever.

Three days later our family sat in the hospital waiting for God to take my father home.  Watching someone you adore die is a life changing experience.  Death is not glamorous like a Hollywood movie.  Death is a life changing experience that annihilates your entire life while shattering your heart into a million pieces.  One minute your loved one is there the next they are gone.  Seven years of horrific pain, praying and pleading with God to save your loved one and then just like that they are gone.

There is nothing that can prepare you for the loss of a person of significance.  Despite my father being so ill I simply could not grasp the enormous feeling of loss immediately following my father’s final breath.  I remember immediately thinking, “No wait, come back! Please! I need you Daddy.”  But it was too late my father was gone after a long valiant battle with cancer.

Grief is not linear.  It ebbs and flows.  Grief is messy, complicated and painful.  Regardless of how horrific someone’s illness is when they are alive, once they are gone, they are gone forever.  I cried more in the days following the loss of my father than I have ever cried in my entire life.  Just when I thought my tears had run out I cried some more.  As I began to walk my grief journey I became comfortable with my wide range of emotions and with the emotions of those around me.

My father’s death has made me a better person—more present, empathetic, and committed to others while trying to have a positive impact on those around me.  A year after my father’s death, with the help of the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders I established the Albert J. Ingrassia Fund.  This is my effort to raise awareness for the countless patients living like my father and for the families so they know they are not alone.  My fiancée and I have decided to donate the flowers from our wedding to patients receiving care at the inpatient oncology and hospice unit at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, NJ.  This is our effort to share our unconditional love with others.

My father was an incredible man.  He was kind, loving and larger than life.  He dedicated his life to his family and as a result led a rich life.  These small efforts are my way of keeping my father’s legacy alive.

I don’t think anything can prepare you for the loss of a parent.  Losing my father was a massive blow, he was not just my father, he was my best friend, he was my person.  I was robbed of the opportunity to watch my father grow old, celebrate milestone birthdays, take him to dinner, and have him walk me down the aisle later this month at my wedding.

I will never stop missing my father, he was my first love and my real life superhero.  As I walk my grief journey I have learned the following:

  1. Never miss an opportunity to say “I love you.”
  2. Don’t waste moments. None of this is monotonous, it all matters.
  3. It’s okay to be less than perfect. When you die the important people that matter only talk about the good.
  4. Strength has very little do with muscle and brawn.  Strength has everything to do with our unique ability to conquer the trials and tribulations that life throws in our path.
  5. A father’s legacy changes the world, one daughter at a time.

My father’s story is far from over. I am the beneficiary of an infinite inheritance of virtue, character and fortitude. I am my father’s living breathing legacy and as long as I have breath in me I will continue to tell his story.

What lessons have you learned as you walk your grief journey? Please share in the comments section.


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What Grieving Friends Really Need


Photo Credit:  Pexels

My feelings were crushed the night my father died.  My entire world exploded when my father died.

As I silently observed my father take his last breath, I felt my heart beat hard inside my chest, exactly six times before I burst into uncontrollable tears.  And then suddenly my sobbing stopped and so did my entire world.

My father’s death was expected after a very long illness.  But that still did not prepare me for the gut wrenching, debilitating pain of grief.  The days leading up to his death were mentally exhausting. Two days before my father died I sat next to his hospital bed begging him not to go, not to leave me alone.  And then the man who held my hand my entire life and gave me butterfly kisses was suddenly gone forever.

You are never ready to say good bye to a person of significance in your life.

The days following my father’s death I felt like the drunk friend who arrived to the party late.  I found myself angry, sad and devastated constantly misjudging everyone’s well meaning actions.  My thoughts revolved around one thought, “My father just died, my entire world just exploded, how do I go on?”

When someone you love dies, every single relationship in your life is reevaluated.  Friendships as well as relations with family members are now ranked by who offered condolences, who texted you, who picked up the phone and maybe even who “liked” your latest photo of your deceased loved one on social media.  If your loved one endured a lengthy illness you may even find yourself evaluating friendships based on who was there for you during the illness.

I began to question lifetime relationships.  How good of a friend is someone if they failed to recognize that my father died?  How strong of a bond do you have with a family member who begins spewing gossip just days after throwing the dirt on my father’s casket?  Did you really respect my father or your relationship with him if you are unable to show respect to his immediate family following his death?  Do I even want to bother to nurture these relationships after suffering such a horrific loss that they failed to recognize or respect?

Grief opens your eyes to one’s true colors.  The widow returns to an empty house, the children are now living a life with a massive piece of their identity missing.  Life as they knew it is forever changed.

The sad reality is after the funeral is over and the condolences stop rolling in everyone but the immediate family returns to life. And when that happens the immediate family can feel a profound sense of isolation.  They begin to look around feeling alone and sometimes abandoned.

Until you have been spouse of someone for 40 plus years it is impossible to comprehend how debilitating grief is.  I lost my father, but my mother lost her husband, her soul mate.  My mother spent the last 7 years of my father’s life selflessly caring for him, the last year of my father’s life assisting him with basic human needs while preserving his dignity.  She showered him, helped him use the restroom, fed him, she became his lifeline.  Slowly I watched my parents go from a dynamic inseparable duo to my mother learning how to live life as a soloist.  Losing my father has shattered my heart, but watching my mother endure losing her soul mate has taken my grief to a whole new level, often leaving me breathless, devastated and feeling utterly alone.

So what do you do?  How do you prevent you lifetime friend from feeling alone?  The massive void left by death can never be filled by another but it sure does help to be surrounded by supportive, kind individuals.

  1. Offer help, but be specific

Start out by asking exactly what they need.  When and if they tell you nothing do not let that deter you from helping.  When we are grieving we have no idea what we need.  Take a peek around their home and make helpful suggestions.  “I can babysit any afternoon this week”, “I can drop the kids off at school this week”, “I can mow the lawn this week” or “I can go grocery shopping for you this weekend.”

2.  Let them vent without judgment

Grief makes you crazy.  Grief makes you feel like that drunk person who showed up at the party late and begins misjudging everyone’s actions.  Your friend needs to vent.  Let them vent and just listen. Let them cry and get it out.  Let them know you’re their judgment free zone and what is said to you stays with you.

3.  Continue to invite your friend out even if they decline

Grief is exhausting; grief makes you want to stay hidden in your bereavement bunker isolated from the world.  Continue to invite your friend out to the places you went before they began grieving.  The movies, lunch, dinner, the mall.  Your friend may be trying to make sense of a world that was just turned upside down.  Even if they keep declining, let them know you will be there when they are ready.

Friends and family return to life, but the immediate family of the deceased is now living a new, horrific normal.  After the flowers have faded and the sympathy cards have been packed away what grieving people need most are friends and family.  You can’t stop the rain for your grieving friend, but you can grab an umbrella and share it with them if they are willing to let you in.

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What It’s Like To Plan A Wedding Without Your Father


Photo Credit:  Pixabay

My father loved my fiancée.  I am extremely blessed, despite my father being terminal he was able to spend valuable time with my fiancée and they forged a priceless bond during the six years we dated.

My father wanted to give me away on my wedding day.  He wanted to shake my new husband’s hand at the alter and tell him to take care of his daughter.  He wanted to share that very special father daughter dance with me.  He wanted to give the traditional father of the bride speech, but being the dynamic speaker my father was he would have had our guests both laughing and crying.

As a little girl I would practice dancing on top of my father’s feet and he would spin me around our living room until I was dizzy and I would fall to the floor giggling.   I walked through life holding onto my father’s strong, comforting grip knowing that he was my protector who loved me unconditionally.  As a little girl I knew that someday I would find a soul mate who possessed all the admirable qualities my Dad had, a man who loved his family fiercely and treated his wife as an equal with love, kindness and respect.

But what I didn’t prepare myself for was when my father was diagnosed with stage IV base of the tongue cancer in 2008.  Seven long years later, after a very brave battle cancer stole my father from our lives forever.

The one aspect of my wedding that I never predicted was being a fatherless bride.

When my father died a big piece of me died.  I remember laying in bed begging God to let me see him one more time, hear his voice one more time, or maybe just take me for a quick visit and bring me back.  During my early days of grief I had no voice; I had no desire to speak.  I felt as if I was having a strange out of body experience.  I simply observed everyone and everything.

I wasn’t going through depression I was and still am grieving the loss of my father.

Eventually the days turned to months and a whole year passed.  I’m really not sure how I survived the first year without my Dad.  It hurt like hell. I cried a lot, I still cry a lot only now I have learned how to hide my pain and disguise my tears.

But one thing is certain; Ronen became my rock and my constant.  He was there for me throughout my father’s illness, held my hand as I watched my father take his last breath and has not stopped wiping my tears as I mourn one of the greatest losses of my life.

Grief is funny, most people assume after a few months it’s business as usual and you’re fine.  About three months into my grief journey people started asking, “So, when are you guys getting married?”  Or my personal favorite, “So, are you upset that Ronen didn’t propose before your Dad died?” My grief was raw, my grief still is raw, but I would simply smile and tell people how much my father adored Ronen and how much I love and respect Ronen.  Unfortunately these questions would force me to retreat into my grief bunker away from the world and its ignorance.

Grief is hard enough, the last thing a griever needs is to field stupid questions.

Ronen, the most patient man on the planet continued to wipe my tears and allow me to take shelter in my grief bunker as needed.  And then on February 6, 2017 Ronen proposed to me on the beach in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida, my favorite place on the planet.  Immediately after saying yes, I cried because I wanted to tell my father our wonderful news, and then I cried harder because the reality of being a fatherless daughter hit me during one of the happiest moments of my life.  That’s how grief works, it’s messy and unpredictable.  You’re smiling one minute and then the next you’re grabbing the nearest form of life support riding a massive wave of grief.

Almost immediately we decided on an August wedding because my father would have turned 70 this August.  I wasn’t ready for the emotional roller coaster I was about to ride, I’m still not prepared for this ride.  I wasn’t prepared for all the questions from vendors that involved my Dad, and having to tell these well meaning people that my Dad is dead.  It doesn’t matter how you drop that bomb you will always have a few awkward moments of crickets chirping.

Planning my wedding without my father is bittersweet.  I  lost count of how many times I have wanted to call him for his advice or to just hear his voice.  I will never have that moment that so many do with their fathers, giving the bride away, dancing and the anticipated father of the bride speech.  My heart aches when I think of this.

The void of my father is massive. But there are moments where I can feel my father’s love, moments if I am quiet and listen carefully I can hear his voice and feel the warmth of his smile as the sun glistens on my face.  I am realizing that I not a fatherless bride. My father may no longer here physically, but as my father said to me the night he died, he will always be my father and I will always be his baby.

Our bond is intangible, unbreakable and unforgettable; no distance, silence, or death could undo that connection.

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5 Alternatives to Walking Down the Aisle With Dad


Photo Credit:  Pixabay

Planning a wedding is not for the weak or timid. You have to deal with crazy relatives, friends who are not invited yet think they are, and figure out how to plan for a couple hours of your life without spending your entire savings account.


For the blushing bride who is about to walk down the aisle, there are endless exciting details for the big day. Flowers, venue, dress, music, the list goes on and on. It’s all rainbows and unicorns with endless tears of joy. But for the bride without a father, there is another kind of tears. Many times there are no words, just a tremendous hole in her heart that aches. It is such a massive void that tears often accompany the happiest moments of wedding planning.

Fathers are such a significant part of a bride’s wedding day. Perhaps the biggest role is that the father of the bride walks the bride down the aisle, giving her away to her new husband. But what about the fatherless brides?

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Grief Changes Your Address Book


Photo Credit:  Pixabay

There are countless resources on how to mourn the loss of a loved one, how to cope with that gut wrenching emptiness, how to endure the horrific pain.  But what about lost friendships and family members?  How do we handle the disappointment brought on by others that follows a significant loss?

Grief changes and rearranges friendships. You never know who will be your rock and who will fade away.  As I continue navigate my grief journey I find myself constantly rearranging my address book adding and deleting contacts.  Death needs to stop being identified as taboo and the entire western world needs to do better when they encounter someone grieving a great love.

Let me be totally straight with anyone reading this article.  It is ineffective to comfort someone drowning in grief with a Facebook post nor can you express your deepest condolences with a text message, or a mass text.  This is even more accurate for someone you consider a friend or family.   Sure it’s the thought that counts but death is very painful and confusing.  Simply put when someone loses a person of significance they need human contact not a text message that took you less than 10 seconds to write.

The friends who express their deepest condolences via social media and text remind me of the people who respond to text messages with a “K.”  What do you mean K???  Are you too busy to type out the entire word OKAY or even OK?  Somebody just died, they took their last breath and will no longer walk the face of this earth and you are expressing deep condolences with a text message?  In a world where technology is destroying the art of social interaction death is one of those occasions where it’s imperative that we go old school, pick up the phone and then send a condolence card to people we consider friends and family.


But at least you thought of your friend whose entire universe has just shattered.  It is the thought that counts, and until you have experienced your own loss of a great love it is impossible to understand the tremendous pain and the endless tears that occur in an instant.

What about the friends who were too busy to reach out at all? No call, no text, no card and the funeral services were at a very inconvenient time.  Or the ones whose significant other expressed condolences so they got off the hook and never put thought into reaching out to you as well.  Or my personal favorites the ones who meant to express condolences, but life got in the way so they never did and when they saw you they avoided they the topic because death is really uncomfortable and such a downer.

What about THOSE people?

When you lose a person of significance, those of us that are left behind are learning to surf massive waves of grief.  Grief is a gut wrenching painful experience.   Grief is permanent.  Grief is a prison sentence for the loved ones left behind.  But grief is also a universal experience that sadly we will all participate in no matter how much we try to avoid it.

When a “friend” fails to acknowledge our loss it tells us that you don’t care enough about the friendship to acknowledge the pain.  In my case it told me that some people simply did not respect the relationship enough to acknowledge that my father died.  And when you fail to acknowledge that I lost a person of significance you become null and void in my life.   With dollar stores all over the world you can buy a sympathy card for 99 cents, drop it in the mail and boom you’re a hero.  But when you fail to acknowledge my pain then see me months later acting like nothing happened you’re inviting a giant pink elephant in the room wearing a tutu.  And grief brings enough uncomfortable moments for me so please leave your big pink elephant at home.

When I lost my father I lost a tremendous piece of me.  I lost a big piece of my childhood, and an even bigger piece of me.  Not a day goes by that I do not think of him.  Losing a parent is one of the most painful experiences in life, you carry that loss in a permanent hole in your heart.  I will never forget the friends and family that stood and continue to stand by my side as I mourn the loss of my father.  The friends that kept calling during my early days of grief and didn’t give up despite me being unable to speak because my grief left me speechless.  The friends that sent me flowers just because way after the funeral.  The friends who texted me while they were on vacation on the other side of the world. These people will always hold a special place in my heart.

But as I sit down and plan my wedding, one of the happiest days of my life, I also cannot forget the friends that were too busy, or the friends that were uncomfortable by my loss.  If a friend cannot acknowledge a great loss, then there is no place for them for at a happy occasion.

You move on, but you never forget and the pain never goes away.  You learn how to surf those massive waves of grief with the help of the friends and family who become your life vest.

I’ll admit prior to losing my father I probably could have done more for my friends when they lost loved ones.  But I have always tried to be empathetic to others and acknowledge their milestones in life along with their pain.  Before losing my Dad I too thought sending a deep condolence text was acceptable.  I was wrong and I should have known better.

Grief is like a foreign country where you can only truly grasp the customs and language once you have lived there.  Living in this foreign country allows you to get accustomed to living life in an extremely different and painful way, isolated without the one you love. Good friends are a Godsend in this new land, they are your beacon of light and hope from the lighthouse on the shore.

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GRIEF – My Uninvited Wedding Guest

Rain Drops Girl Window Raining People Sad Crying

Photo Credit:  Max Pixel

Grief is a sneaky little bastard,  Pardon my French, but it really is.

Just when you think you’re doing okay, it sneaks up on you to remind you it’s still there. Grief doesn’t care about when it shows up, and it certainly doesn’t care about being inconvenient.  When grief reappears, the pain and sadness is as fresh as if the death happened yesterday.  For example earlier this week I was minding my own business meeting with our florist and he said, “What type of flowers would you like for the Dads.” That’s right; he said it, Dads plural.  For that split second my world stopped spinning and I felt sick. Funny how one little four letter word can really change the mood.   My mood shifted from a happy, carefree blushing bride to heartbroken fatherless bride.  I politely explained to Mr. Florist that my father is dead.  Instantly changing the mood from cloud 9 to downright depressing.  There is no good way to tell your wedding vendor that your Dad died a year ago.  I simply smiled and said, “My Dad passed away last year.”  Cue awkward silence. Then me filling that awkward silence with, “He had cancer; he was sick, really sick.” Then me thinking to myself WHY are you rambling, just say he passed away and shut up! Then me smiling and saying, “It’s okay, I’m FINE, really I’m fine, I’ll probably bring all my flowers to his grave.”  Again with me babbling and saying too much.  Luckily my fiancée saved that uncomfortable moment by changing the subject from dead dads and graves to something more appropriate for wedding planning, I’m really not sure what because at that point my mind had drifted as I pretended to play with my phone and browse Pinterest for creative flowers in a desperate attempt to not start crying at the florist. 

That’s when I felt the hammer of grief come crashing down with its harsh reality—I won’t need to select a flower for my father’s tux because he won’t be attending my wedding, he’s gone, dead, passed away pick your preferred phrase he’s just not here!!!  I will be a fatherless bride.

Later that evening it hit me hard like a hammer, delivering a swift blow of sadness and a steady stream of tears.  I did what any grieving daughter who is a bride to be would do; I spent my evening surfing the internet looking at flowers for my father’s tux. Quietly, I stared at hundreds of pretty internet brides with their fathers.  And then it happened, one tear led into the flood gates opening and then ugly sobs.

Grief touches lives beyond death.  Grieving takes time. Loss and pain have no set format, no prerequisites.  There is no list or magic pill to be “OK.”  Grief ebbs and flows like an unpredictable tide. Grief is that unexpected, uninvited, annoying house guest that can’t take a hint.  

You are minding your own business doing your thing, and then suddenly there’s a moment, a memory, or a milestone—and just like that—you realize how much you miss your loved one.

People die every day, and every day heartbroken people mourn them. Grief stricken people cry in the car, grocery store, or while planning a wedding.  The sense of loss when a loved one dies is universal; it transcends language and culture and everything that separates us.

This August I will be a fatherless bride.  When I walk down the aisle, I will shed tears, but I will also laugh and celebrate my father, the incredible man who taught me to be strong and courageous. My wedding day will represent a legacy full of love, laughter, and a rare strength forged through my pain.

My tears bring comfort, and a simple reminder of something I feel every day—I was raised by a great man who I love and will miss forever.  As my father taught me so well—I’m strong and I’m going to okay…even if I cry on my wedding day.

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The Things They Don’t Tell Us About Grief


Photo Credit:  Pixabay

I am a fatherless daughter.  For seven long years I watched my heroic father suffer and scream in pain.  Cancer stole bits and pieces of my father nonstop for seven tortuous years. Despite the fact that my father was surviving on a peg tube unable to eat or drink orally, enduring endless pain, I begged God not to take him because I simply could not imagine life without my father.  

I watched my parent’s fairy tale marriage evolve into never-ending hospital visits. The flowers that my father would bring home just because became a faded memory.  The love notes my father used to leave around the home for my mother were replaced by his shaky penmanship reminding him to take his never-ending list of medications.  

Our family spent 7 years searching for a cure for my father, begging God for mercy.  And then, just like that my father was gone.  When I lost my father I lost a big part of myself, my identity.  

The days following my father’s death, were spent in my “bereavement bunker”, my safe zone.  When my father took his last breath, I lost my voice.  I could not speak to anyone and just leaving the house was exhausting.   I have a confession, I didn’t wash my hair for the first 5 days following my father’s death, I was just too tired.  I was certain I thrown into my own personal hell the moment my father died.  My pain was gut wrenching and never-ending.

There were moments; there still are moments that I am positive the sounds of my breaking heart are deafening to anyone around me.  

My father just wasn’t my father, he was my friend, my best friend.  I will miss that bond for the rest of my life. See, I didn’t just speak to my father once in a blue moon, we spoke daily, sometimes multiple times a day right up until he took his last breath.  Each day without my father is an adjustment, and as more time passes it is a cruel reminder of the massive void in my life.  I still have moments when I retreat into my bereavement bunker because it feels as if the world cannot handle my grief.

Friendships, even some family relations are not immune to grief.  Despite what you may think, what television leads you to believe, some people will vanish when you need them the most.  Some people will say hurtful things at the most inappropriate times, even going as far as telling a new widow to “get over it”.  Many have no clue what to say or how to act.  Others are extremely uncomfortable around someone drowning in grief.  Some are petrified of how your grief makes them feel.   Some people are harboring their own guilt and resentment and simply cannot handle the depth of your grief.  Grief has a unique way of forcing you to do a friend and family purge, and forcing you to retreat to your bereavement bunker.  

Death is uncomfortable for many.  Death is a reminder of our own mortality and mortality is an uncomfortable thing to think about.

We get uncomfortable being in the presence of a woman who has lost her child, especially if you have your own little ones that you can’t imagine being without for even two seconds.  Or the new widow.  It’s terrifying to think of life without your partner.  Simply put, it’s difficult to know what to say to a person who has experienced a traumatic loss.  

Unfortunately we all experience loss at some point in our lives, it’s inevitable.  

Your grieving friends and family need you now more than ever.  Time will lessen the sting, but for the griever the moment their loved one died they were handed a life sentence without parole.  Grievers wake up each morning and pray that something, someone will give us a glimmer of hope to get through the day.

Reach out and touch your grieving friends in any way you can.  Now is the time to shower them with unconditional love, their hearts are shattered.   I promise you, your grieving friends will never forget the ones that were their light, their glimmer of hope as they sat isolated in their bereavement bunker.  


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To My Father As I Plan My Wedding


Photo Credit:  Pixabay


I am missing you with a new painful sting these days.

I miss calling you and discussing my wedding plans, I miss your advice, I miss laughing with you.  You have only been gone for a year, but my grief has blindsided me since my engagement last month.

I really miss being your daughter as I plan my wedding day.

I’m just a few weeks into planning the best day of my life and I feel like you died all over again.  Lately, I find myself constantly telling strangers that you are deceased, sending me crashing into those ferocious waves of grief.

Fathers are such a significant part of a bride’s wedding day.

From the flower that I am supposed to pin on your tux to our father daughter dance. Every single time I tell someone that you will not be attending they respond with a sad face and offer condolences shattering my heart all over again.

We want this to be a celebration of love and we are trying to weave you into our wedding day in various ways.  But it’s not the same, and boy oh boy does it hurt.  They sell memorial pins and I can hang a photo of you on my bouquet.  Some magazines tell fatherless brides to reserve a chair in your memory or light a candle for you.  All agonizing reminders that that I will be a fatherless bride.

How can the happiest day of my life also be one of the most painful days of my life?

I proudly wear your wedding ring on my neck every single day, I wore it the day I found my gown. It took all my strength not to burst into tears when I “said yes to the dress”, knowing that you will not be there to walk me down the aisle, dance with me or give one of your memorable speeches.

Your wedding ring hanging next to my heart is another cruel reminder that you are no longer here.

Three days before you died I sat with you in the hospital and cried harder than I ever cried. I told you how terrified I was to lose you.  I begged you to stay because you couldn’t miss my wedding, I needed you in my life, forever preferably.  It sounds so selfish, because you were in so much pain, but I didn’t want to let go.  The fear of losing you was an agonizing gut wrenching pain.  With tears in your eyes you smiled, held my hand and promised me you would be there.

It has been so heartbreaking and lonely with you gone but I want you to know that I am not alone any more. The day Ronen proposed he officially became my family and each day we are building a future together.

Dad, you will always be my first love, my forever hero.

Thank you for loving me, supporting me and guiding me. Thank you for every compliment you gave mom, because from you, I’ve learned what it truly means to unconditionally love your spouse.

A girl’s first true love is her father.
—Marisol Santiago


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A Letter To My Father One Year After His Death

dadlisaDear Dad,

It’s been one year and one month since you are gone.  According to Google that’s 9490.01 hours but to me it feels like an eternity.  I still wake up in the morning thinking this is a nightmare and you’re not really gone.  At night I look at the sky and make a wish on the brightest star I see and I believe it is you.

When I was young you told me we grieve for ourselves because the deceased are in a better place.  As a woman, I know that is true, but I still miss you terribly.  For seven years I watched you endure horrific pain.  I prayed and pleaded with God to heal you.  Towards the end of your life I was so angry that my prayers were not answered.  You were not supposed to die unable to eat; it seemed like such a cruel death sentence for such a good man.

When you died my grief became so overwhelming and suffocating that on numerous occasions I was convinced that I too was dying.  My heart was so heavy and the pain was unbearable.  You played a major role in my life and now you were gone.  For my entire existence we spoke every single day, even when I was away in college.  That’s 40 years of saying “I love you”, 40 years of being a Daddy’s girl, 40 years of feeling safe, 40 years pure, unconditional love.  And now just like that you were gone.

Would I ever smile again?

Watching Mom mourn you is unbearable, there are times I’m certain I can hear the sounds of her heart breaking.  I watched Mom selflessly care for you throughout your marriage, but with extra care the past 7 years.  So much that it was not uncommon for you to shout to the doctors that you were alive because of Mom.  As your health began to fail, Mom was the one breathing life into you each day.  I will never forget how your eyes would light up with joy when Mom entered the room.  You and Mom showed me what true, unconditional love looks like.  Hearing the gut wrenching sounds of Mom mourn you is a heartbreaking, agonizing experience.

How do I comfort someone mourning their soulmate when I don’t even know how to comfort myself?

The people who I thought were going to be my anchors quickly became the holes in my lifeboat.  Complete, utter disappointments.  Our family desperately needed kindness, love and support, anything else seemed cruel and unwelcome.  Taking a page out of your book I chose to break ties and ignore.  One of the greatest lessons you taught me is to quiet a fool with silence.  Unfortunately death brings out quite a few fools.

But you prepared me for this.

From teaching me how to walk, to throw a ball, even to dance while standing on top of your feet, you showed me ways to stand on my own two feet.  A dad’s job is not only to protect his little girl, but also to show her how to defend herself when, one day, he is not around.

You were the biggest influence in my life.  

A father is the one who guides his daughter through life, and now even in death you are guiding me. You are constantly showing me that love never dies. You speak to me through feathers, music and if I listen closely I can still hear your sweet voice.

Your death has been a mysterious doorway with so much painful grieving for me.  Heartache that I never knew was possible and mysterious because I never know how or when that door is going to open and pull me in.

It’s been a full year and one month since your death you are still opening that door comforting me.  Sometimes it is gut wrenching pain, like the other day when Josh Groban’s “Your Raise Me Up” came on in the store and I felt a faint brush on my cheek.  I KNEW it was you and started sobbing in the middle of Stop and Shop.  Or when I’m driving to work in the morning and I can smell you, and for a moment I can feel you sitting next to me in the car.  Or when a beautiful fluffy white feather crosses my path, and I smile because I know it’s you sending me love from above.  Since you have passed I have found enough feathers to build my own angel wings and visit you in heaven.

I miss you. 

I miss you even more today than one year and one month ago because it’s been 13 months since I heard your voice, heard your laugh, told you I love you and held your hand.

There is so much of you in me that I think I frighten Mom sometimes.  I have your sense of humor and share your love for life.  Mom is always telling me I have your eyes and heart. You loved people and a good party.  Since you have gone I have received endless photos, emails and texts telling me what a great man you were. I established a fund in your name where all monies go to the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders.  I desperately want to help the countless individuals living with a swallowing disorder, people like you and families like us who felt so isolated.  Last weekend I hosted my first fundraiser.  Dad, 52 people, some whom you never met came out to celebrate YOU and to help raise awareness.  Your passing has created another level of a new beautiful community.

Dad, you taught me what heroes are made of.   

You taught me how to love life even when it’s terrifying and difficult and you know it’s going to be painful.  As I sat and held your hand throughout my life and the past seven years of your pain and suffering, I saw an incredible person, my hero.

I learned how precious life is.

As I remember you one year and one month after your passing, the painful image of my very sick frail father is fading.  I will always carry your pain and suffering in my heart, but I can also see my father, my superhero, the strongest man in the world.  The man who raised me, the man who was my first love and my best friend.  The man who gave me butterfly kisses, taught me how to drive, how to dance while standing on top of his feet and how to appreciate Doo-Wop music.

These days I count how long you have been gone in milestones, and most recently I am engaged.  I now wonder how I can possibly survive my wedding day without you by my side, smiling and laughing.  Even though I can no longer hear your voice, I still see your face and I can feel your love.  You’re still with me, in my laughter, my smile, my tears and in my writing.

Love never dies, it simply evolves.

Love Always,


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Words of Sympathy – What Do We Say?


Photo Credit:  Pixabay

I have a blank condolence card sitting on my desk for well over a week now.  I know better than that, this card should have been signed, sealed and delivered long ago.  It’s been sitting on my desk, I procrastinated and now I’m sitting here thinking, “Oh shoot!  What if I say the wrong thing?  What if I stir up painful memories?” 


I really should know better than to think of any of the above.

I know how comforting every single card and note received was after my father died.  The bond between a girl and her dad is profound and everlasting. The loss of a father can bring about not only feelings of loss and grief, but also a gut wrenching paralyzing fear.  Losing my father was devastating. I spent the first few days after my father’s death in a daze.  Just speaking and showering were difficult.  I remember my phone ringing and people talking, but all I heard was the Charlie Brown teacher on the other end.  Just uttering the words, “Thank you” became exhausting.  So I stopped answering the phone and relied on my better half to tell people I couldn’t do it.

Death is funny.  

As soon as someone dies everyone wants to see and speak to you.  For someone who just lost a family member to a long-term illness you can’t help but wonder where all these Chatty Patty’s were throughout the deceased’s pain and suffering.  The last five months of my father’s life was spent on hospice, screaming in pain.  It was a confusing, horrific time. Visits were welcome and provided much needed comfort for both my father AND his family.

The days and weeks following my father’s death were life changing.

In our case we were informed months after my father’s passing that some Chatty Patty’s were told by “others” not to visit.  Let’s think about this.  Other than the dying person and his immediate family aka the caregiver what gives anyone the right to speak on their behalf? Despite my father being gravely ill he loved people and company so much, that towards the end of his life he yearned for company.  Unfortunately death forces people think about their own mortality and many make atrocious irreversible mistakes. You can’t exactly visit a person after they die, and if you know how to please let me know because I really miss my Dad.  A big spray of flowers doesn’t make up for your nonexistent visits to a dying man and his family.  A basket of muffins and jelly is not a get out of consoling the grieving family voucher and certainly does not give you the right to gossip about the dead guy’s family.  Gossip is tacky, tasteless and really low class, and it’s worse when it’s done after someone dies.  Some food for thought, would you say all those lovely things to the deceased’s face?  Be truthful when answering!  If the answer is no (and it probably is) then you are a deterrent to the person grieving and you are showing a total lack of respect for the deceased.  I’m also guessing you have yet to suffer that one big loss, because when you do you will realize that a person grieving someone of significance is basically learning how to survive and everything else becomes irrelevant, starting with petty gossip.

But that’s just my opinion.

Let’s get back to that condolence card on my desk, as many of you already know grief is confusing and has a way of making your thoughts race.  So let me try to focus and let’s discuss condolence cards.

Cards and well wishes sent to the immediate family are extremely comforting for a grieving person.  Despite my little outburst above, we received hundreds of cards, some from people we never met, but knew of us through my Dad.  They knew of us as, “Al’s Girls.”  Friends of my Dad who knew how my father’s face lit up when he spoke of his family. Cards from men and women who worked for my Dad many years ago, but fondly remember him as being a kind and fair boss, a great man.  I vividly remember sitting at my parent’s kitchen table reading every single word, hanging onto every single word.

Slowly as I read through piles of cards, hundreds of them, it seemed overwhelming to think about how so many people cared enough to send along their prayers and well wishes. I went through the cards more than once, they became my lifeline. Just knowing that so many people were thinking of us, trying to comfort us in such a painful time, was what really mattered. And when I take the time to really reflect I realize the value is in the people who genuinely cared and still care, not the Chatty Patty’s who are just annoying bumps in my grief journey.

The pain of losing someone can never be compensated. However a few words of sympathy will at least ease the burden of pain off your loved ones who have lost a person of significance.

Below are some suggestions when we are at a loss for what to write in a condolence card.

  • I am deeply saddened to hear the news of your father.  He was a great man.
  • Your father had such an amazing personality. He always made the best out of any situation. (Include a memory your remember)  I learned a lot from him throughout the years, he was always a ray of light and an inspiration. My life will not be the same without him.
  • I am truly sorry for your loss. There is not grieving message that can express how much he meant to me. My heart is aching.
  • Your father was always there for my family and me. He was so giving and thoughtful. He will live on in our heart forever.
  • Your father always bragged about how wonderful you were. I hope you know that you meant the world to him. He was a wonderful man and will be missed. Truly sorry for your loss.

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2016 The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year


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2016 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for well, anyone. To put it nicely, this past year was one hot mess.   If 2016 had a theme song, I’m pretty sure it would be Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.”

Just 10 days into the year and the iconic David Bowie died. Then just 8 days later Glen Frey founding member of the Eagles died, then Prince, Muhammad Ali, Harry Potter star Alan Rickman, actor Gene Wilder, the beloved Dad from Growing Pains Alan Thicke, just the other day pop superstar George Michael, Carrie Fisher and only 24 hours later Carrier Fisher’s beautiful mother Debbie Reynolds.  There were others, and each celebrity death left us throwing a collective fist in the air chanting, “Not another!!!! “   The theme for 2016 quickly became the death of larger than life stars.  The music industry seemed to take the hardest hit. Some icons were taken too soon, some died from old age.  Either way it sent a shockwave throughout the world.  Many of us felt as if a part of our youth left with these beloved celebrities.

2016 was constantly blindsiding us with an endless loop of shocking and devastating news.

As of losing our beloved celebrities wasn’t difficult enough we had a Presidential election which was nothing short of a circus. Politicians and businessmen behaving badly for the entire world to see.  The only good thing that came out of this election for both sides were some pretty funny Saturday Night Live skits.

Let’s not forget Hambre the gorilla that was shot and killed after a child fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. For reasons only the internet can explain this inspired a series of memes that quickly became the #1 googled meme of 2016.

The internet then kicked off December wishing this horrible, no good year away with even more memes.  Good riddance, now let’s fast forward to 2017!

I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that 2016 has been less than kind to me. January came into my life like a wrecking ball.  Just two days into the New Year and a young friend was taken too soon.  17 days into the New Year and I found myself holding my father’s hand as I watched him take his last breath.  My life forever changed on January 17th and my faith was tested throughout the year.  In case you’re wondering death really does bring out those crazy relatives, I now refer to them as minor distractions in our journey.  To book end this year, my better half was rushed to New York City for emergency spine surgery last week.  Once again my faith was tested, and I found myself thinking, “Why me?”

I’m pretty sure I spent the majority of 2016 clutching a box of tissues in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. As December approached I tossed the wine glass and started drinking straight from the bottle.  Okay, let’s admit it together. 2016 was horrible! With each untimely death, disappointment and tragedy many of us have uttered these words throughout the past year, “2016 really sucks.”

But despite all of the above, I’m amazed by people who are so dissatisfied with this past year, that they are eagerly wishing it away. It’s as we have never had anything positive ever happen. Chanting “2016 sucks” is an insult to every single human being who took their last breath, and anyone endured, and continues to endure a difficult journey.

2016 was test of faith for many, myself included. With each heartbreak and disappointment, our faith was tested. We became distracted and started overlooking our blessings and everyday miracles. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to throwing my hands up in the air many times this past year feeling disheartened. But as I reflect on 2016 and my own heartbreak, I realize that this past year has opened my mind’s eye and heart. Even during my darkest days I was surrounded by miracles. The friend who checks in on you after the funeral, the family member who hugs you and tells you, “It’s going to be okay, we got this.” The friend who believes in you when all you can see is darkness. The friends and family who call and text during that first holiday after a significant loss. The friend who tried that new recipe and made extra just for you. The friend who is always there, no matter what.

Each of those individuals are every day miracles in our lives.

This past year has taught me that regardless how difficult things get we are all blessed beyond measure.  If we practice gratitude, live in the moment, seek the beauty, treasure relationships, help when needed, be a light for others, pray, cherish our blessings, and make the most of every opportunity and experience, even a terrible, horrible, no good very bad year won’t distract us.

Rather than wish 2016 away let’s look at our everyday miracles. If you suffered the loss of a person of significance, let’s look at the spectacular legacy they left behind.  This past year has taught me to stay faithful to God in good times and bad, because God is faithful to each of us always…we just have to look.  I am so grateful for friends and family who rallied around my family during the horrific loss of my father, and continue to shower us with kindness and love.

My wish for everyone reading this is for 2017 to deliver endless opportunities to love, grow, heal and overcome.

Cheers to 2017!

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What Not To Say To A Fatherless Daughter


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I was 40 years old when my father died.  That’s 40 years of spectacular memories with my father.  He was and always will be my hero.

He spent the last seven years of his life bravely battling Stage IV tongue cancer.  I watched cancer rip him apart with a vengeance.  The last four years of my father’s life were horrific. His pain was endless and there was no cure.  The treatments that were promised to save his life stole his quality of life and eventually stole him.  Cancer, in case you didn’t know it, you suck.

As time passes, I have more and more friends losing their loved ones to this horrific disease, more and more friends losing their Dads.  More and more fatherless daughters. Everyone deals with grief differently. Some say our grief is as unique as a fingerprint or a snowflake.

Unless you’re directly in a grieving person’s shoes it is difficult to understand the magnitude of loss the person grieving feels.  For many it is an impossible task to express the impact of such a monumental loss. But just because something is difficult does not mean we do not want to discuss it.  Those of us that are grieving desperately want to keep our loved ones memory alive.   Not a day goes by that I do not think of my Dad.  I am a part of him, and he is always on my mind.

The past year has taught me that there is a right way and a wrong way to speak to a grieving person.  Even if you have the best intentions there are some things you should never, ever say to a fatherless daughter, or pretty much anyone grieving a person of significance.

  1.  He suffered so much! Now he’s in a better place – Witnessing a loved one’s suffering is intolerable, for me it was torture. I watched my real life superhero suffer endlessly, I now carry that pain with me daily.  Please do not remind me of his suffering when you are trying to help.
  2. Don’t bring up my marital status and ask me if I have any regrets – Just because a woman lost her father doesn’t mean she is broken.  I am a strong woman because I am my father’s daughter, he played a major role in making me the person I am today.
  3. Please don’t tell me to move on or ask if I’m still upset – All this does is point out a significant amount of time has passed since my Dad died.  When you lose someone you love, you never “get over it.”
  4. Don’t tell me only the good die young – Unless we are listening to Billy Joel, please don’t say this, ever.
  5. Please don’t tell me my father would not want me sad – I miss my Dad, and sometimes I just need to be sad.

I’m not perfect, and I’m guilty of telling bereaved friends that their loved one is in a better place.  I had the best intentions when I uttered those words.  Until I felt the gut wrenching pain of grief I was not capable of understanding how ignorant I sounded, and how family members really do not want to hear that.  I know my father is in a better place, but that does not take away my pain.  Actually nothing will take away my pain, but there are things we can do to help.  Here are some suggestions of what you can say to a friend instead.

  1. Your father was a great man, I miss him too. Want to hear a story about him?
  2. I found this old photo of your Dad, here’s a copy for you.
  3. Tell me more about your Dad.
  4. I wish I knew him.
  5. I wish  I had the right words but please know I’m an awesome listener.

Grief is all the love we want to give, but cannot give creating a hole in our heart that never goes away.  We all grieve different, but the one thing we all need and want it is for you to listen.  Grief is messy and complicated, there is no guidebook for the loved ones left behind.  Sometimes comforting a friend is as simple as silence and a hug.

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Finding The True Meaning of Christmas Among Heartache


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5 more days until Christmas!!!!!!  5 more days until Jolly St. Nick pays us a visit.  The holidays are upon us and we have just 5 more days until the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time of giving, goodwill and hope for the future.

There was a time in my life when I would get so excited this time of year I could barely concentrate or sleep.  I would fight to stay awake just to catch a glimpse of Santa and his reindeer.

But this year is different.  This year is my first Christmas without my best friend, my Dad. For countless families suffering the death of a friend or loved one, a major illness or a family breakup, it is difficult to celebrate.

Christmas is an enchanted day when the world stands still. Nothing bad happens on Christmas.  This must be true, because it was repeated on my new favorite show, “This is Us.”  Christmas is bundled with countless hopes and dreams—all tied in exquisite red and gold bows neatly tucked under our Christmas trees.

But this Christmas started as a season of profound heartache and sorrow.  My family is surrounded not just by missing presents but a missing presence.  Our family is overwhelmed by the empty chairs and sadness throughout our home.  The toys on my tree that once were the map of my childhood are now a reminder of the horrific loss our family is enduring.  Just looking at certain ornaments brings back memories too painful to remember.  This Christmas I decided to leave the toys in a box neatly stowed for when I am ready…next year perhaps.

This Christmas I did not send out Christmas cards.  I spent 2016 learning how to live without a person of significance, I saw no need to send friends and family a photo of me wearing my grief mask.  Smiling was tough this year, finding happiness was at times exhausting.  This Christmas I decided against holiday cards…next year perhaps.

This entire holiday season I have been walking around wearing my very own invisible armor.  My armor protects me from captivating memories that throw me into the ebb and flow of grief leaving me helpless, drowning in tears.  My armor preserves my sanity and allows me to function during the holiday season when I see a father daughter duo in public.  They could just be standing there minding their own business, but throw some Christmas carols in the mix, a Santa and some holiday cheer and I’m a mess.  This invisible armor protects me from sobbing in public and causing a scene.  I was doing so well, my armor was shielding me and my half assed decorated tree was proudly standing in our living room.

And then with the blink of an eye my already broken heart was smashed.

My better half, my life preserver when I am drowning in my waves of grief was injured.  He was injured so severe that our entire quality of life changed in an instant.  What we thought was a simple pulled back became a nightmare.  I watched in horror as yet another man I love suffered in pain.  I was ready to give Christmas a rain check.  See ya in 2017 St. Nick!

Wait, nothing bad happens on Christmas right?

My armor was ripped off without my permission, and I was thrown into survival mode. Together we researched doctors, surgeons, hospitals and rehabilitation facilities.  I was watching my better half endure similar horrific nerve pain my father endured for years. Once again I was given front row seats to watch someone I love suffer.  At that moment I decided that Christmas was cancelled.  I stopped decorating and started avoiding anything that was jolly or holly.  I was slowly turning into the Grinch and I knew it.

And then it went from bad to worse.  With heavy, shattered hearts we rushed to New York city Friday morning for emergency surgery.  We drove the same route my father took when he went to Sloan Kettering, only this time we stopped at The Hospital for Special Surgery. Only this time we had a real solution and hope.  After a long, emotional day we were told the surgery was a success. The recovery would be long and exhausting, but it was a success. Suddenly the holiday lights were shining a little brighter, and my heart wasn’t as heavy.

We returned home the next day and my Christmas spirit started peeking out again. I ran upstairs to the attic and began placing all the toys on the tree, everything…even the ones that didn’t match my “theme”.   My half assed decorated Christmas tree was now a cluttered map to my heart.  The silly Boston Terrier ornament we purchased in NYC years ago was proudly hanging right over the glass angel my father gave me years ago.  All of it proudly on display for our guests to hold my hand and  walk down memory lane, and if I cry it’s okay because I am chosing to love and honor my father on my first Christmas without him.

Instead of focusing on my pain, I’m focusing on the fact that I had a magnificent childhood and a friendship that created a strong lifetime bond with my father.  Instead of focusing on what it is missing, I’m concentrating on what’s here.  Instead of being sad that my Dad isn’t with our family, laughing and enjoying his favorite meals, I’m choosing to focus on the fact that my family can enjoy his favorite meals and they are laughing as we remember my Dad.

I’m reminding myself that there is joy in the unexpected and life is a beautiful ride.

Holidays after the loss of a loved one is difficult.  Life is constantly throwing curve balls. But life does not stop because a tragedy occurred.  Life keeps going and it’s up to us if we choose to enjoy the ride.

The true meaning of Christmas is not the gifts with red and gold bows tucked under our Christmas trees.  It is the everlasting hope because of our Savior—hope for today and for an eternity of tomorrows.

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A Letter To The Fatherless On Christmas


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This Christmas is my first fatherless Christmas.

Chances are if you’re reading this you too are experiencing a fatherless holiday.  I don’t know what gave you the title of “fatherless.”  Perhaps it was some sort of tragedy.  Perhaps it was an accident, a disease or maybe some horrific senseless tragedy.  Maybe it was months ago, maybe it was years ago but there are moments when the pain is so intense that you cling onto the nearest form of life support and it feels as if you are being gutted.  I now have a gaping hole in my heart that aches for not being able to shop for the perfect Christmas gift and the sound of my Dad’s infectious laugh.

Maybe you spent the last several holidays watching your real life superhero endure unspeakable pain and suffering, unable to eat, housebound with endless tubes and machines stuck all over his frail body.  Maybe instead of singing “Silent Night” you silently sobbed as you helped your real life super hero use the bathroom last Christmas. Or maybe you counted the beeps on machines instead of singing “Silent Night” as you silently prayed for a Christmas miracle.

Maybe your brain knew last Christmas was your father’s last Christmas but your heart refused to accept reality.  Maybe you begged God to “not be so mean” and take him because you needed him and your story wasn’t done.

That’s my story, and if you were to come to my house I would pour you a cup of tea or maybe eggnog for the holidays and we could cry together and comfort each other as we spoke of the unbearable loss of our real life superheroes.

This entire holiday season is just another agonizing reminder that my dad is no longer here and I am now a fatherless daughter.  But as much as I would like to fast forward through the ho ho ho’s and holiday cheer, this holiday season is also an opportunity to honor my Dad’s legacy.

The month of December was a big deal in our home.  December 1st, my birthday, kicked off the holiday season in our household. Immediately following Thanksgiving my parents raced to put up the tree and lights in time for my birthday.  For as far back as I can remember my parents made a point of throwing a grand celebration because of little ole’ me.  When I was younger my father would rush home with mini roses for me and long stem roses for my mom.  I remember one particular birthday my father waking me up, kissing me on the forehead holding a beautiful bouquet of mercedes roses.  I was only 5 years old but will never forget the magnificent bouquet of roses and the ear to ear smile on my father’s face as he said, “You will always be my baby, even when you meet your prince.  Happy Birthday honey.”

I am choosing to spend this holiday season reminiscing when I was younger and believed my Dad was a real life, living breathing superman.  As a child there was nothing my father could not do, in my eyes he was the strongest man in the world.

As I grew up, he continued to prove to me that he was in fact a real life superman. Throughout my divorce he was my anchor, my cheerleader and my best friend.  When I fell down, he was right beside me to pick me up and wipe away my tears.  As an adult I watched him bravely battle cancer proving time and time again he was the strongest man in the word.

Remember when you thought there was no better man in this world than your Dad?

Well, there still isn’t.  Even in death, your father will never leave your side as long as you keep him in your heart, where he will forever stay because love never dies it only evolves.

If your Dad was anything like mine, he did not want to leave you; he never wanted to leave you because he needed you just as much as you needed him.

If your Dad was anything like mine, this Christmas, he does not want to see you heartbroken and lost.  He would want nothing more than to see you smiling, happy, living your life.  He would want to see you prosper…because you are his living, breathing legacy.

So to you, my friend I hope you find peace and joy as your honor your father’s legacy this season and throughout your grief journey.



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What Grieving Loved Ones Need During The Holidays


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The imminent holiday season has amplified my loss.  Christmas carols that once symbolized holiday cheer now sound like nails on a chalk board. The thought of writing holiday cards now seem like an exhausting task.  This year rather than searching for the perfect comfy blanket for my Dad as he watches TV, we ordered a him a grave blanket.  Nothing feels right.  My holiday cheer is quickly fading into holiday fear.  I am not the same person I was last holiday season.  My heart is heavy as stare at my father’s empty chair and remember what was.

I already am finding myself saying no, no, no rather than ho, ho, ho.

Grieving my Dad is a colossal emotional storm.  Since my Dad died in January, there have been highs, lows and valleys.  To simply say, “I miss my Dad” is a massive understatement.  I did not just lose a father; I lost my best friend, my hero, the person I went to for everything.  Not a day goes by that I do not miss him and wish that I could hear his voice one more time, hug him one more time or tell him I love him just one more time.

I consider myself fortunate to have spent such an abundant amount of time by my father’s side.  I enjoyed his company and valued his advice. Since I was a little girl my Dad would tell me, “You’re my best friend.”  So much that when I went for a reading this past September the first thing the medium said was, “Your Dad is telling me you are his best friend.”

My Dad spent the final week of his life in a hospital next door to my office. Every single morning before work, sometimes as early as 6:30 AM I would sneak into my father’s hospital room.  Many times I would just stand there and count his breaths as tears rolled down my cheeks.

During one of my final visits I desperately wanted to crawl into bed next to him and hold on tight.  I needed to hug my Dad but there were just so many tubes with no beginning or end.  So I did what any normal 40 year old woman would do.  I held my breath, pushed the tubes aside and tried to squeeze next to my Dad.   Within seconds my father was awake, machines were hissing at us and I’m not quite sure if he was amused or annoyed.  Let’s be realistic who wants to be abruptly woken up by their grown daughter practically pushing them out of an already uncomfortable hospital bed.  Despite all that, he smiled and whispered, “Lisa honey what are you doing, please stop before you hurt yourself.”

In the middle of beeping machines and endless tubes we smiled, giggled and then cried. Between tears and the unbearable pain of my heart shattering, I mumbled, “Dad, can I please lay with you?”  And what do you think he said?  He smiled, and said, “Please no, you’re too big get a chair.” 

Together we laughed, I quickly grabbed a chair and held onto my father’s hand as I cried endless tears.  I didn’t want to let go, I didn’t want to forget the powerful, comforting grip my Dad had as he guided me throughout my life. I cried harder than I ever cried that morning.  Well….I cried until my Dad told me to stop getting his hand and sheets wet with my tears.  And then I giggled again.

That was my Dad.  

Even during a gut wrenching, heart breaking moment he managed to put a smile on my face.  He was and always will be my light in the darkness. He was not just my father, he was my best friend.

I will never stop missing my Dad.  

I am eternally grateful for the people who continue to support me throughout this grief journey.  Sometimes words help, and sometimes words are not needed.  Sometimes there is a power in silence, in just being there.

Friends…this holidays season more than ever, please come and sit with our family. Please continue to be there for us, to witness the pain and hold our hands as we navigate our ebb and flow of grief.

Sometimes, just being there is greatest gift you can give as we grieve a person of significance.

It’s Your Choice – For Better or Worse Grief Changes Us


Death is devastating.  It leaves behind a trail of broken hearts and shattered dreams.  All losses are significant.  I consider myself blessed to have had such a strong bond with my father.  The months following my father’s death have left me feeling as if I’m walking around with my heart torn open.  My grief has slowly changed me, sending me on my own pursuit of happiness.


I was handed front row seats to watch my father bravely battle cancer for seven long years. The last four years of his life were horrific.  When hospice began coming around I was in full blown denial.  I told everyone hospice was to get him “back on his feet.”  My heart could not accept what my brain already knew.  My father was dying.  I tried to imagine my life without my Dad but I couldn’t.  It was just too painful, too difficult. The days leading up to my father’s death were emotional, agonizing and mentally exhausting.

My father tried his best to prepare our family for life without him.  I spoke to my Dad daily, often multiple times, each conversation ended with, “I love you more.”  I visited weekly, and at each visit we held hands, cried and laughed as he made me promise to stay strong and enjoy life to the fullest.  During one of our final father daughter conversations, my Dad looked me in the eyes and told me, “You will always be my baby, live your life and be kind.  I will always be with you.”

Life without my Dad has been difficult.  It has been emotional.  It has been devastating.  It has also been a series of valuable lessons, all of which have changed me.

Below are 3 valuable lessons from my grief journey:

You Get Your Priorities Straight:
My entire perspective on life has changed, it has matured. All the little annoyances of everyday life, those little things that would have once qualified as “the worst day ever” immediately become irrelevant.  People who are unkind, selfish, lack empathy, none of it matters to me. They are all just minor distractions, detours in my grief journey . My chaotic life has slowed down. I discovered the frivolousness of being in a hurry all the time. I have made an effort to “stop and smell the roses.”   I call my Grandma more often, I spend more time with my Mom on the phone,  I end each conversation with ,“I love you.”

You Love Deeper:
After my Dad died, saying goodbye to someone, to anyone I cared about was painful.  I would carefully watch them fade away into the horizon.  For the first few months I was terrified of losing my mother.  I am learning instead of letting my fear send me into a downward spiral of darkness and overwhelming sadness, to let go of my fear and focus my love on my loved ones.  I send my Mom flowers just because, I send my boyfriend a random “I love you” text, I reach out to friends more frequently, because I know how sacred life is. I have chosen to live each day like it’s my last and to treat each day for the blessing that it is.

You Learn How To Appreciate Life:
I watched my father fight to live.  He was thankful for every moment he was given with his family.  Regardless of how much pain and suffering he endured, he was always kind and grateful.  When my father became gravely ill I deliberately chose to stop anything that would quiet my mind.  Yoga, pilates, meditation were all bad for me, or so I thought.  I didn’t want to think about what was happening to my world.  I wanted noise in my life, I kept myself busy.  Now that my father is gone my favorite thing to do is to stop and enjoy the silence.  Each morning I breathe in the love. I have consciously let go of anything that is toxic and causes anxiety.  I take time each morning to breathe in the love of my Dad and remember the kind, loving soul that he was.

Stop, be still, take all it in.   Life is a precious gift.  

Perhaps our grief can have a positive impact on us.  Together, as we grieve, we are evolving into extraordinary empathetic creatures with true altruistic motivations.  As we travel our grief journey we are supporting each other while we strive to preserve our loved ones legacy.

Grief lasts a lifetime,  but our precious memories will live forever.


Remembering My Dad

img_4690I’m sitting in my favorite Italian restaurant.  I can hear Sinatra crooning in the background. A bottle of red is open and I can smell the overpowering scent of  mouth watering Italian food from the kitchen.

A plate of strong, sweet prosciutto is placed on the table.  I can see my Dad smiling and enjoying the appetizer.  He raises his glass and toasts our family.

What would today be like if cancer had not taken his ability to eat and then taken him?

I take a deep breath, open my eyes and observe a couple my parents age enjoying their dinner across the restaurant.  I can feel a lump forming in the back of my throat and I’m on the verge of tears.  Despite being in my favorite restaurant my heart is heavy and I miss my Dad.  I spent four years unable to sit in a restaurant with my Dad.   My father spent four long years surviving on a Peg Tube.  That’s 1,460 days without an ounce of liquid or a morsel of food.  I quietly observe the older couple drinking wine and laughing.  I think to myself, “That should be my parents.”

My father’s struggle was a long, slow battle with stage four base of the tongue cancer, but his death is not what defined him; it was the life he lived that dictated who he was.

Growing up, I was never without affection from my father. There was always a kiss on my forehead or a hug “just because.”  I can remember being a little girl, about five years old eagerly awaiting for my Dad to return home from work, waiting and watching from our living room window.  When my Dad would open the door I would run up to him, hug him and take all his Lifesavers from his brief case. This was a nightly ritual and yet he always had a new pack of Lifesavers, every single night.

My Dad was the guy who was always laughing and smiling, regardless of what was going on.  He was a happy soul.  He was a good soul.  He was a one of a kind Dad, and I am blessed to be Al’s daughter.

Whenever I needed him to be a father, my father, he was there in a flash.  When I needed him to listen to me, not judge me, to understand that I was in pain, he was there. Just two days before he died we sat in the hospital and I cried to him, I begged him not to go, not to leave us.  Even at that moment he was there for me, despite him being the patient.

He was always there for me, no matter what. And I am learning that even in death, he is still always by my side. He visits me in my dreams, he leaves me fluffy white feathers and he lives on in my precious memories.

When my Dad passed I received hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails from friends and family, even total strangers telling me how my father adored “his girls.” Emails telling me how “his girls” were all he ever spoke about.  Even now, eight months after his death, I am still being contacted by people who knew my Dad and his immense love for “his girls.”

I was taught to be kind to all people, no matter where they came from or what their circumstances. He taught me how to stand up for myself and the importance of holding my head high as I stood my ground.  My Dad taught me people could be cruel, but it did not mean I needed to retaliate with more cruelty.  One of the greatest lessons he taught me was the art of self preservation and enjoying life.  Happiness was a priority in our home.

“Life is a precious gift.” was one of my Dad’s famous quotes.

For me, food symbolizes what cancer stole from my Dad.  I’m somewhat envious of families that can go out to dinner together, of daughters who can enjoy a simple cup of coffee with their fathers.  It reminds me of a life that once was, of happy times.

When my Dad was healthy, it was not uncommon for him stop by my office and take me to lunch.  On numerous occasions I would find him waiting in the parking lot excited to treat me to lunch.  I treasure those precious father daughter moments.

My Dad made his entire life about love: his family, his children, his friends, his compassion and kindness for others.

My Dad truly loved people, all people, and the world is a better place for having him in it.

I will never stop missing my Dad. So, the best I can do is write about a man with integrity, compassion, honor, respect, kindness and love.

See you in heaven Dad.

As I continue to honor my Dad, I will always love choose love.

Heaven IS For Real…My Dad Told Me So

On a cold January afternoon I made two promises to my dying father.  The first was that I would be kind.  The second was that I would stay strong and keep God in my heart.  My dying father in turn promised to love me forever and let me know he made it to heaven.

Two days later on January 17, 2016 after seven long years battling Stage IV base of the tongue cancer, my father died. He spent the last four years of his life unable to eat a morsel of food or drink an ounce of liquid.  I watched cancer ravage his body, and slowly take away all those little things we take for granted.  He spent the last five months of his life on hospice, unable to leave the home.  He spent the last week of his life bed ridden, even changing the channel on the TV remote was an impossible task.  My father and I were limited to holding hands and praying.  Anything beyond that was an impossible task.

My father’s illness shattered our hearts and sent a wave of shock through our family and friends.  My Dad never smoked, yet died a gruesome death. Sure, he spend much of his life surrounded by heavy smokers, but they were healthy and he died unable to eat or drink.  I quietly observed the smokers vanish to take quick smoke breaks as my father was dying. It seemed very unfair.  It made me very angry.  My father was reduced to a mask just to breathe and somehow enjoy his final moments on earth and visitors were quietly slipping away for a much needed cigarette break.

In the end the doctors could not cure my Dad, the nurses could not comfort my Dad, and we were forced to say good-bye.  I remember leaving my father’s lifeless body in the hospital room that fateful evening.  Could he see us standing over him?  Could he hear us? Was he comfortable?  Were other family members who crossed over with him?

I knew he was dead, but his physical body was there.  The man who held my hand my entire life was in that hospital room.  I felt guilty leaving him there, alone.  My mother was speaking to the nurse but I was unable to comprehend what they were saying. My only thought was my father’s body, alone in that hospital room.  Would the nurse remember to remove his feeding tube?  How long would his lifeless body remain in that room unattended?  I remember thinking maybe I should stay there with his body until the nurse finished his paperwork. You know just in case the nurse forgot to do something.  I was panicking at the thought of leaving my father alone.

And then very quietly while everyone was busy talking, I snuck back into the room. I quietly fixed the covers on my Dad and suddenly felt a strong urge to fix his hair.  Something was telling me to fix his hair..now.  So very gently with my fingers I fixed what hair my Dad had left and said goodbye one last time.  My father no longer felt like my father, I knew his spirit had left this world.  With a heavy heart and tears in my eyes I said good-bye to my father’s lifeless body.

I had seven years of cancer treatments and sickness to prepare me for this moment and NOTHING could have prepared me for the overwhelming sense of sadness and the paralyzing heartache that seized my body.

The days following my father’s death were dark and filled with exhausting sorrow.  I could not think, I could not eat, I had only one thought, “my father is dead.”  A piece of my heart was gone forever.

Almost immediately I began to notice unusual things happening.  Two days after my father passed I started waking up every night at exactly 1:30 AM, the exact time he died.  There were times I was certain he was standing right next to me.  Sometimes I would even see the most beautiful glowing light in the corner of my bedroom.  A week after my father’s passing I started to find the most beautifully fluffy white feathers.  Almost eight months later, each time I find a feather it’s always in a spot that I know it’s him.  Perhaps the greatest sign was a phone call from my Dad in July.  I was having a tough time and wanted a sign from my Dad.  I challenged him and told him to make the lightbulbs in the bathroom blow out (grieving people do strange things).  I was staring into the lights waiting and then my IPAD began to ring.  I looked at the incoming call and to my surprise saw “D-A-D.”  Instantly, I was overwhelmed with love, the kind of love that you just cannot describe but I knew, somehow, my Dad was moving heaven and earth to once again tell me he loved me.

That phone call prompted me to write Heaven Now Has Cellular Service, which connected me with Lisa Scrivens, Canadian medium.  On September 6, 2016 we had our telephone session.  I opened my mind and let go of assumptions.  I believe my Dad aligned the stars with that story and connected me to Lisa.

Nothing about this reading was what I thought it would be.  Although I had an open mind I was skeptical and extremely nervous.  I spent the entire half hour leading up to the reading running up and down my steps with nervous energy.  I set up the kitchen table with my mason jar of feathers next to me, proudly wore my Dad’s wedding band around my neck (I wear it daily), and I even had my favorite childhood photo with my Dad displayed.  We had plans to Facetime, but unfortunately my internet connection had other plans.

Over the telephone Lisa attempted to connect me with my Dad.  It started with my great-grandmother and the mention of an old photograph with her, me and a polka dot dress.  It was no surprise to me that she was by my Dad’s side in the afterlife.  Our entire family knew she adored my Dad.  It was a surprise to me that she’s been by MY side much of my life.  I felt honored that this great woman, who lived such a long life with such a rich history was by my side.


Great grandma, me and the polka dot dress

Moments later my father entered the reading.  Lisa didn’t even have to tell me because immediately I could feel his love.  Words cannot do justice to how I felt at that moment, only that it felt as if I was a little girl again and everything was going to be okay.  I knew my Dad was there with me at that moment.

She started by telling me that my Dad was here and told me that a”Ginny” was with him. Immediately tears began to fall because just a few days prior my mother was crying, asking if Ginny was with him (Ginny was our beloved Pom who passed a few years ago).  Lisa then told me my father wanted me to start wearing the ruby ring he handed down to me.  We spent time talking about my father’s unconditional love for my mother, the beautiful larger than life love they shared with each other.  They were true soul mates, and my father wanted my mother to know that she will always be “his Marie” and he will always protect her.  Halfway through my reading I became overwhelmed with the smell of cigarette smoke and at that time Lisa asked me if my Dad was a smoker or if anyone in my family was.  My Dad was not, but my grandparents and other family members were.  We spent an hour discussing things only my Dad knew, things I have not written about.  Somehow Lisa knew of my anxiety about my Dad being alone after he passed, and through my father she assured me that my Dad was surrounded by family and friends. Perhaps one of the greatest things Lisa told me was that my father was at peace and even now, in death, he would move heaven and earth to keep me happy.

Death forces us to question our beliefs.  Is heaven for real?  Is my Dad okay?  And then I morph into Stewie from Family Guy…  “Dad, Dad, Dad, Daddy…Hellooo….can you hear me?  

Learning about the afterlife gives comfort, hope and peace for the grieving…for ME.

My reading and spiritual insight about life after death has not eliminated my grief, but it has transformed my grieving experience.  I went from hopelessness and anxiety to hope and peace.  I have gone from wondering where my Dad has gone, and worrying if he is still suffering—TO—knowing he is surrounded by the love of God. I now know for sure that he is watching over me and can really hear my mom and I speaking to him.  I believe that he is no longer suffering, he is finally at peace, celebrating his homecoming with those who had crossed over before them.

Tips To Find Strength After Losing A Parent

photo13When my Dad died this past January a trap door opened at the bottom of my heart.  My entire existence immediately fell through the door.  From that moment forward, I viewed myself as a fatherless daughter.

Losing a parent is one of the most difficult things in the world and it will change you. But losing your father when you are a “daddy’s girl” transforms you.  I lost a parent, a teacher and my best friend.

I immediately learned that grief is unfair, cruel and consuming.  Grief never goes away, you simply learn how to survive and conceal your emotions.  Seven months later and there are moments the pain comes rushing in like a tidal wave.  And when those waves come rushing in I’m certain anyone standing close can hear the deafening sounds of my heart shattering into a million pieces.

Just today I was minding my own business in Walgreens looking for vitamins when I spotted a daughter helping her Dad with his walker. Instantly I was brought back to the day my Dad received his new shiny blue walker.  He was not happy that his legs were slowing down and he was not happy that his hospice nurse ordered him a walker.  I vividly remember him whispering to me, “Don’t tell your mother, but I’m never using that thing, it’s for old timers.” Because I hated the walker as well, I smiled, lied to my Dad and said, “You don’t need that thing, it’s stupid.”

My Dad’s walker quickly became a fixture around the house to transport the laundry basket or an end table with wheels to hold the television remote controls.  I can remember constantly pushing it out of the way because it was always in front of the television. Towards the end of his life when he had no choice but to use his shiny blue walker, a massive lump would form in my throat and I had to fight back tears as I watched my Dad slowly make his way from the couch to the bathroom.

I was now quietly standing in the middle of the vitamin aisle with tears running down my face observing the father daughter duo.  My heart began to ache, and I was reminded how much I miss my Dad.  And then as quickly as my sadness hijacked my visit to Walgreens, I went from tears to laughter.  The daughter was now chasing her father down the aisle, frazzled and concerned  that her Dad was moving way to fast with his walker.  “Dad, you’re going to slip! Be careful!”  I then heard the father and daughter giggling reminding me of my Dad and me.  Reminding me that despite how bleak a situation seemed, my Dad always found a way to make me smile and appreciate life.

As I walk my grief journey I am constantly reminded what a powerful influence my Dad was on my family.  My father’s death has shattered my heart, but has also taught me valuable lessons, lessons that I carry close to my heart.  Below are some of those valuable lessons.

Life is a precious gift –  Somewhere, someone is fighting to live.  My father fought hard to stick around and watch his family grow.  He fought seven years, spent the last four years of his life in tremendous pain, and the last five months of his life housebound on hospice. His will to live every day and courageously fight for his life gave him and our family the beautiful gift of time. Don’t waste one second of it.

Say I love you. Every single day, all the time –  Watching my father battle cancer and die was devastating. When my father died I was heartbroken, but because of him I know that no matter how much your heart is breaking, it’s important to continue to love and it’s important to let our loved ones know we love them.  We spoke every single day, and ended every single conversation with, “I love you more.”  

Keep your memories close to your heart –  Ever since I can remember my father has been my world, my hero.  As young child I would go to his softball games and cheer him from the bleachers, towards the end of his life I would sit by his bedside, hold his hand and thank him for always loving me, for always being my biggest fan.  As long as I have breath in me I will be my father’s legacy. I share his DNA, he lives on in my mannerisms, my mother’s unconditional love and his grandbabies laughter.

Life is there to be cherished.

It’s what your parent would have wanted. Live your life in the knowledge that they would be happy for you, that they want you to be happy.

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Love Is Stronger Than Death


Photo Credit:  Pinterest

My father’s cancer journey and death instantly opened my eyes to the countless sacrafices both my parents continuously made for my sister and I our entire lives, even when my Dad was dying.

My Dad was the one who taught me how to throw a baseball, taught me how to dance while standing on top of his feet, took me out for chocolate ice cream on a hot summer day, and always made sure I had fresh parmesan cheese on my pasta…I’m Italian so that’s important!  My Dad held my hand my entire life and always had his white handkerchief available to wipe my tears.  My Dad was my real life super hero.

During my teen years my Dad spent many nights on the couch pretending to watch TV while waiting for me to come home from a “late night” out. I still remember the look of relief on his face when I would walk through the front door. During my college years, he tolerated my obnoxious need to challenge everything and my independent behavior. When I came home one afternoon and declared my desire to smoke cigarettes he smiled and said “Ok, but we smoke the first cigarette together.”  I tried one cigarette and quickly decided that wasn’t for me.

I can still hear my Dad laughing in disbelief at some of the boyfriends I would bring home. I had a strict curfew, and he made sure every single date that stepped foot into our home knew it.  He proudly informed my dates, “She has to be home at 12:00, NOT 12:01, 12:00, I’m a nice guy so don’t make me angry.  Have fun, but not too much fun. Remember 12:00 on the dot.”  

During my college years, he built a strong foundation of encouragement, love and support. When I spread my wings and went into the “real world” looking for my first real job he was always available for advice or to just listen, regardless of how trite my issues were.  I remained his baby while growing up into a woman that quickly realized I would always need my father by my side.

Throughout my entire adult life my father was my confidant and best friend.  Despite the fact that my father’s cancer eradicated his body, cancer was never, ever able to rob the magnificent father daughter relationship we shared. Despite how sick and frail his body became, in my eyes, my father always remained a larger than life, super hero.

Like many fathers, my Dad lived for his wife and children.  Lately I am beginning to think that there was a greater reason for his cancer journey and his death. My mother was my father’s caregiver for seven years.  They would have been married 43 years this past May. My father’s dying wish was for the world knew how fortunate he was to have a wife like my mother.  Family was everything to my father and he was eternally grateful for the selfless acts of caregiving my mother provided for him throughout their marriage and his sickness.  Even now, in his death I have vivid dreams of my Dad asking me to tell my mother how much he loves her, and even now in his death, we are finding love notes my father left behind for my mother.

Two days before my father died, he held my hand looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “Always remember I’m alive because of your mother. She has dedicated her life to take care of me.  Now I need you and your sister to look out for her.  I will always love you and I will always be with you.”   The love my parents shared was a once in a lifetime kind of love.  I believe my mother was able to provide the type of care she did for so long because my parents had a marriage that fostered true altruism and unconditional love.  Throughout my entire life, including my father’s cancer I was given front row seats to see what true, unconditional love is.  Now in my father’s death, I am seeing, every single day that love never dies.

As I walk my grief journey I am evolving into a stronger person, a more patient person, a more compassionate person.  My father’s death has taught me that the simple things in life — a cup of coffee with a loved one, a daily phone call just to say hello, a walk on the beach, a sunset, a sunrise, even a rainstorm — all deserve tremendous gratitude.

Life is too short to waste time on the trivial matters.

As we expereince the ebb and flow of our grief, despite how much we are drowning in our sorrow, we should not hinder the legacy of our loved one.

My father is forever a part of me and lives on through my actions.

Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can’t separate people from love. It can’t take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.
– Author Unknown



Your First Birthday In Heaven


Dear Dad,

August 21st was your first birthday in heaven.  Unlike the other special days that have gone by since you passed, this one hurt like hell. I woke up the morning of your birthday positive my heart was shattered in a million pieces.

This was your first birthday not here, your first birthday in my ENTIRE LIFE I didn’t spend watching you blow out candles. Even when you were at your worst, suffering, unable to eat you ALWAYS blew out your candles and made a wish.  This year there were no candles to blow out.  No clapping after they were blown out.  No searching for the perfect cards and gift.  This year there were only the sounds of my heart breaking into a million pieces.

We used to honor and celebrate you on this day and last week I couldn’t even bring myself to go to the cemetery.  The thought of going to the cemetery on your birthday made me physically ill.   I didn’t want to look at your headstone glistening in the sun.  I didn’t want to talk to the dirt and leave you flowers and balloons.

I searched high and low for the appropriate present for you, now that you are you know, dead.  But I was at a loss.  Lord & Taylor was having a sale on Men’s shirts.  Linens & Things had an extra 20% off for back to school.  Even Macy’s was having a sale.  But nothing for the Dad up in heaven.  I never brought you flowers while you were alive and now here we are seven months later and it’s flowers galore and whatever else I can leave at your grave to not to get destroyed from the elements.

I spent the day mourning your absence, really missing you.  Nothing is the same now that you gone.

I hope that you had an awesome birthday up in heaven.  I hope you were finally able to eat that piece of cake and wash it down with that big cup of coffee.  I hope God had a camera  on your birthday and He took a photo of you so we can see you eating again.  My rational mind knows that you are at peace, but my heart aches that you died unable to eat.

Seven months since you have passed and I miss you more now than the day we lost you.  I find myself looking for your magnetic qualities in people.  I look for your warmth, radiance and compassion.  I search for your sense of humor, and your unbelievable strength of character.  I look for your face in the crowd, I listen for your voice in the middle of the night.  So many things will never be the same.  You were a one of a kind father and you are irreplaceable.

I miss you Dad.

Your absence was magnified on your birthday.  I know you can hear me, and I’m trying my best not to be sad.  But some days are tough. Whenever I ask you for a sign that you are okay you always send me a beautiful white feather. On your birthday you made sure to send me a fluffy white feather. That’s so like you to give me a gift on your special day.

I want to thank you for all you have done and continue to do for me.  You taught me to be strong, to have courage and to have faith.  Dad, you taught me to love with all my heart, no matter what and to always be truthful.  You taught me to be passionate and fearless regardless of what others thought. During one of our last conversations you told me to be kind and trust in the Lord.

Although you are no longer here  in physical form, you live forever in my heart.  You are constantly showing me that love never dies.

On your birthday and each day I honor you.  I honor your faith and strength.  I honor your love and commitment.   Together, with Mom, you both taught me the meaning of true love and what it is to be a parent.  On your birthday I lit a candle and thanked you for always being my hero and showing me what true unconditional love is.

Happy Belated Birthday Daddy!  I love and miss you!

Love You Forever,

Lisa Mia XO






The Grief Thief

IMG_6101This past week has thrown a massive monkey wrench into my grief journey.  I am once again putting cold spoons under my eyes to reduce the swelling and feeling sick to my stomach.  My grief diet hit me full force taking 5 pounds with her.  Unfortunately despite the fact that I’m mourning my Dad, life marches on. And as life marches on we must ride the highs and the lows of life despite how much those lows hurt.

I am beginning to realize that despite all my writing and thinking I’m ok, I’m not. Sure, I’m a grown up.  I have my health, a fabulous career, an amazing significant other and a loving family.   I know I’m blessed, but I really miss my Dad.  It was my Dad I went to for everything.  He was my trusted advisor on life.  And now that my first real life issue has fallen into my lap, I feel like I’m standing on the edge of an abyss, the same abyss I was looking into the night he died.

My father was my hero, my rock, my best friend and life without him is extremely difficult and challenging.  How do you learn how to walk again when the ground beneath you is crumbling? How do you speak when unshed tears claw at your throat?  The seven month anniversary of his death is a few days away and I can still feel my heart shattering into a million pieces.

A few days before my Dad passed we had one of our last heart to heart conversations.  It was at that moment I cried to him asking, “WHO will I go to when life takes a chaotic turn?”  He patted me on the head, smiled and said, “Me.”  I will never forget that response, he was so sure of himself, like he knew something I didn’t.  Despite all his pain and suffering  I saw peace in his eyes.  It was at that moment, I knew my Dad knew something I didn’t, and it was beautiful.  In the middle of muffled sobs I paused, studied his face, and whispered,”Seriously Dad, WHO am I going to go to because I really need you.”  With tears in both of our eyes, my Dad smiled and replied, “I will always be with you, and you will always be my baby. Have faith in God and I promise I will always be with you.”

So here I am, six very long months have passed and I’m fatherless.  I miss him more and more each day.  Life is marching on, and the glue that held our family together is gone.  Many times the waves of grief are so engulfing I have no choice but to ride them.

I’m not sure what it is with death, but people are totally clueless.  People not qualified to offer advice on broiling water are attempting to fill my father’s shoes, giving unsolicitated opinions on private family matters and it’s horrifying.  And while I understand they truly believe their intentions are good, what they are incapable of realizing is that they are outsiders looking in.  I’m certain many of you are reading this thinking, “OMG me too, thank goodness I’m not the only one with crazy relatives!”

So, what’s the solution?  

How do you survive your own grief journey when you’re encountering meddlers with bad intentions who are gossiping during one of the most difficult times of your life? In the movies families rally together, hold hands and sing by the fire.  But this is real life not the movies, so now what?   Unfortunately I don’t have a magic pill, gosh I wish I did.

As I sat on my patio struggling to make the right the decision, the decision my father would have made, I decided to ask for his guidance.  My Dad had a gift with people, he always seemed to know what to do, he had a dymanic larger than life personality.   So, I looked up and said, “Dad, give me the strength to survive this journey.”  

Moments later I found perhaps one of the fluffiest feathers yet, instantly feeling surrounded by love.  I knew then nothing else matters.  The gossip, the meddling it’s truly for the small minded, and isn othing more than a distraction as I grieve.

As you walk your grief journey focus on learning how to live again without your person of monumental significance.  Take some time out.  Grief makes us all do crazy things we may regret.  It is important to cut anyone who is toxic during this time.  People do all sorts of appalling stuff when they grieve, so try to look at these things as poor choices due to a hopeless time in life.  Their heinous choices are a reflection of them, not you. 

Our relationship with loved ones does not end with death.  If you find someone is stealing your grief, its okay to take a break from them and shout, “Don’t steal my grief, thief!”

This article originally appeared on:  The Grief Toolbox



Pain Deserves Acknowledgement Not Judgment

 “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world… but you do have some say in who hurts you.”  The Fault In Our Stars

To the person who thinks my grief is cumbersome…

To the person who felt the need to tell me HOW I should be grieving…

To the person who tried to put words in my dead father’s mouth not even a month after his passing…

To the person who has avoided me because of my grief and now our relationship is dead….

Grief is a personal journey with no time stamp.  I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you are fortunate enough to have not lost a person of monumental significance in your life yet. The saying “ignorance is bliss” holds true when it comes to death.

Perhaps you are unaware of the gut wrenching pain that occurs when losing someone who has held your hand since birth.  Perhaps you are unaware of the constant sting in your heart after losing your real life super hero. Perhaps you are unaware of the nightmares that begin after watching cancer dismantle someone you adore.   Perhaps my grief frightens you because it forces you to think of your own mortality and that of your loved ones.  Or just maybe in your very hectic life you forgot how important it is to show respect to your dead friend/family member by acting like a decent human being and showing kindness and respect to the deceased’s immediate family.

You see, when someone you adore dies, life as you know it takes a dramatic turn.  Despite how sick the person is, you can never prepare for life without the deceased.  You are basically learning how to live without this person in your life.  You search for various forms of life support as you endure overwhelming waves of grief.  And these waves of grief strike at the darndest little times, not just those expected firsts, I’m referring to moments when you’re minding your own business in the grocery store and a song comes on, or when you’re watching TV and a Hallmark commercial comes on.  And let me tell you, it’s those during those unexpected moments when those waves really knock you down.

First, let me say that our family is truly blessed to have such a strong support network. Death is funny, it has a way of exposing fair weathered friends and family.  You never think when someone is dying that people who were once in your inner circle are capable of such ignorance and ineptitude. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because life is so hectic we tend to forget what’s really important or maybe it’s because society has become so incredibly selfish.

Pain deserves acknowledgement not judgment.

Unfortunately for you I am aware of your actions during this extremely vulnerable time in my life, during perhaps one of the darkest times in my life. My father died, you remember him don’t you?   I watched you shed a tear or two as you approached his death bed, I listened as you proclaimed your “love” for him.  I watched you walk up to his casket and pay your last respects.  I watched you shed crocodile tears and make promises that were broken before the dirt was even tossed on my father’s casket.  I apologize for being so blunt, but death does that to you.

Death opens your eyes and closes your heart to some as an effort to survive.

That fateful evening I sat next to my dying father holding his hand, certain the sounds of my breaking heart were deafening.  I held the hand of the man who brought me into the world.  The hand of the man who taught me how to throw a baseball, how to dance while standing on top of his feet, how to drive, the incredible man who taught me how to find the good in everyone.

But I’m struggling with this, where is the good in a person who is too impatient and indignant to simply be there for a newly fatherless daughter?  Where is the good in a person who uses their self righteousness to justify treating a widow poorly when her world is completely shattered?

 “Self-righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us”  Eric Hoffer

Maybe you can put your selfishness aside and consider that for the rest of my life, the rest of my mother’s life we will never be able to embrace my father’s comforting hug or hear his voice again.  Maybe what we need is your empathy and not judgment as we attempt to accept this new reality we never asked for.  Maybe you can truly recognize that our horrific loss and pain is greater than your need to tell us how to grieve and pass judgment.  Maybe you can recognize that our family has a permanent void in our lives and we need kindness and empathy.

Finding Hope In Nature’s Signs

When someone you love dies you receive all sorts of advice from supportive individuals.  The first couple of days are a complete fog and you’re lucky if you can just get out of bed.  I had a difficult time speaking and just being around others.  I was so tired, I felt like a piece of me died.  I remember sitting in the funeral home helping my Mom with the arrangements and thinking the funeral director sounded like the Charlie Brown teacher at one point.  I began to quietly think to myself,  “Is this real life? Am I REALLY here?” Then I began to think, “I’m fatherless now.”  It was as if I was standing on the edge of a cliff looking into total darkness.  It was absolutely terrifying.

The death of a beloved is an amputation.
—C. S. Lewis

The death of a loved one is painful and confusing.  Mourning someone you love shocks your spirit and shatters your heart.  You feel a new hole or a void inside your heart that the deceased once occupied.  There are moments when you can actually hear your heart breaking into a million pieces. As you allow yourself to grieve and experience the ebb and sorrows of your grief, you will begin to see signs and realize that love never dies.

A few of my friends who have already walked this path immediately told me to “pay attention to nature.”  For the past six months I have been paying attention to nature.  In the beginning I honestly had no clue what I was supposed to be looking at.  My Dad died in January, so there really isn’t much nature running around in New Jersey.  But like most people when a loved one dies you become desperate to know if they are at peace, and for me that means are you eating again and what does heaven look like? 

Two days after we buried my Dad a feather fell from my bedroom ceiling.  Yes you read that right, a fluffy white feather fell from my bedroom ceiling.  I quickly did a perimeter check just in case.  Perhaps a bird was trapped in the ceiling, or we had something with down feathers hanging around.  But I’m allergic to down and there are no birds trapped in my ceiling.  Since then I have found enough feathers to build my own angel wings and visit heaven.  I save all my feathers in a mason jar on my nightstand to remind me that my father is at peace and that heaven is for real.  If I stare long enough, it looks like the feathers are dancing in the mason jar, waiving to me.

My first visit to the cemetery shortly after my father passed was terrifying.  The first blizzard of the season left us knee deep in snow, with a blast of frigid arctic temperatures.  But I NEEDED to go, I felt something tugging at me to go.  As I slowly made my way to my father’s snow covered grave I noticed a cat walking out of the wooded area from behind the headstones.  He made his way up to our family headstone and sat with me the entire visit..in the snow.  Tilting his head and meowing as I sobbed, carefully watching my every move.  As we slowly drove away, he stood tall observing, meowing .  Maybe he was a graveyard cat enduring arctic temperatures, maybe he was sent to comfort me during my first visit.  However that cat ended up at the cemetery, he was comforting during a very difficult time, and I will never forget his presence.   I made sure to snap his photo as we drove off.


“Pay Attention to Nature”

Fast forward to six months after my Dad’s passing.  My signs are becoming stronger and distinct.  My dreams (the ones I can remember) are vivid.  My questions are always the same, “Are you eating again?” and “What is it like up there?” 

I am constantly observing my surroundings for signs from my Dad.  With each sign my Dad sends my way, I check for authenticity. (Sorry Dad, but you always taught me to be alert)  Each time I check for authenticity he sends another sign.  Each sign leaves me scratching my head and saying, “OMG is this real life?”  It’s like we are playing a game now, and anyone who knew my Dad knew he had a zest for life and loved a good game.  To say he was competitive is a massive understatement.

My latest blog post somehow connected me with Lisa Scrivens. I’m humbled and honored that somehow on the great big internet she found my little story.  I’m excited, anxious and nervous for our appointment in September.  I wrote my last post like I always do, to share my journey.  Writing is my feeble attempt to somehow come to grips with losing my Dad.  I never in a million years expected it to result in an appointment with someone as respected as Lisa Scrivens.  I truly believe my Dad had something to do with that. 

Following my email conversation with Lisa, I asked my Dad for guidance as I was sitting in my car. I asked him if I should speak with Lisa.   And of course I ended it with, “Are you eating again.”  Please understand, I’m human and skeptical as I walk this grief journey!  As I was bombarding him with questions I noticed a black bird flying, but kinda lingering in my eye’s view with a cookie in his mouth.  I tried to make eye contact with the bird, but I was driving and he was flying and that’s a recipe for disaster, as well as a little strange.  I simply continued my drive, now with tears rolling down my cheeks.

This could be a coincidence, maybe someone gave the bird a big cookie, or maybe just maybe it’s another sign from my Dad.  I’m going to believe that it’s a sign from my Dad.


Photo Credit:  Pinterest


Heaven Now Has Cellular Service

IMG_2605My dead father called me this weekend. Yes, my dead father called me on my cell phone this weekend. He called my cell phone Saturday evening at exactly 7:01 PM.

Wait, what?

This is the part where some readers throw their hands up and say, “This poor woman has obviously lost her marbles while grieving her Dad.” Before you write me off, I have proof that my Dad called me this weekend.

When someone you love dies you lose pieces of them as time passes. Immediately the daily phone calls stop but little by little their scent fades from clothing, slowly their mail stops, and very, very slowly you stop looking for them in their favorite comfy chair. Gradually you accumulate significant pieces of them that are now gone, and accept that this is your new normal. You have moments when you are overwhelmed with the feeling that they are gone forever. Each new day brings a painful reminder of what was.

When my father was alive I had hope, I made it my mission to find someone who could help him. Someone who could restore his ability to eat again. ANYONE. I refused to accept that he would die yearning to eat. I wanted to believe that he would have just one more meal, one more drink with the family. Watching my father spend the final four years of his life surviving on a peg tube was my own personal hell. Towards the end of my father’s life I had a very difficult time being around an abundance of food; it was a painful reminder of what was taken from my Dad. I wanted my father’s ability to eat restored more than anything in the world. I prayed harder than I ever prayed, I begged and I searched the internet to find “the one.” I did all the things a good Catholic girl does when she prays for something, including not walking on sidewalk cracks. Sadly, I never found “the one” and my father died unable to eat or drink. This is something that has burned a hole in my heart and haunts me. I find myself lying awake at night thinking, “Why my father.”

This weekend was the six month anniversary of my Dad’s passing. I am amazed how six months can fly by, yet feel like an eternity. As the weekend progressed my anxiety began to build. The pain in my chest suddenly overpowering. The tears unstoppable. I found myself standing in my bathroom holding onto the counter while navigating the ebb and sorrow of my grief. I asked my father for a sign. Actually, I begged him for a sign, anything just please let me know you are eating again.

I asked for this sign, knowing full well that my Dad has been showing me signs since the moment he passed. He sends me beautiful fluffy white feathers, he speaks to me through music, he has blown out a few dozen light bulbs. He is constantly sending me signs. But like most humans, I’m greedy and I want solid confirmation that he is eating again. I really don’t know what I expected. Suddenly I was having a stare down with the bathroom light. I strangely resembled “Firestarter” staring into the light, like I expected it to blow up or something.

And then it happened.

My cell phone began to ring.

At first I was annoyed because I was preoccupied staring at the bathroom light waiting for my sign.  When I realized the light won our staring contest, I looked at my phone and then my IPAD (they are in synch)and saw “Dad.” I did what any “normal” human would do, I froze. I wasn’t afraid, I was shocked. I stared at the screen wide-eyed in disbelief. Right before my eyes were the letters “D-A-D” followed by his picture. I fumbled and quickly took a screenshot, because let’s be real no one is going to believe that my Dad has wireless service in heaven. I mean I can barely get service in my local grocery store, so this is amazing.

When I pressed accept he didn’t answer, but I quietly whispered, “I love you more Dad.”

I miss my Dad every single day, especially when the days takes me further and further from the last day I saw him, as I slowly begin to forget the sound of his voice, the sound of his laugh or his scent. Even in death my Dad is still my hero.  He finds ways to remind me that no matter what, he’s still with me, guiding and protecting me.

I love you Dad, this is not good-bye, this is only farewell.

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The Many Faces of Grief

Surviving the loss of a loved one is heart breaking and debilitating. Healing takes place on many levels.  Unfortunately grief does not arrive in a neat little box, it’s messy and chaotic.  It doesn’t matter if it’s expected or unexpected when you lose someone you love and adore you are in turmoil.

Six months ago my father passed after a very long battle with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer.  I thought I was prepared for his passing.  I had moments when I would watch my father suffer and beg God for mercy.  I would think to myself, how much agony can a human being endure?  Why my father?  He was a good man who loved God.  My father suffered the last four years of his life, his final weeks were heartbreaking.  I was given a front row seat to watch my father deteriorate before my eyes.  I felt alone, helpless, worthless and lost.  These were the darkest days of my life.

I write as an effort to try and understand why this happened to my hero, my father.  I write to memorialize my beautiful father with hopes of helping others living with the same ache in their hearts.

I thought I was prepared for his death, I even was given a grandiose Hollywood ending. We rallied in his hospital room and held his hands as he entered the afterlife.  I remember feeling the presence of God and loved ones who passed before my Dad.  The entire room was filled with love and the strong scents of those that passed before us.  At one point I remember being alone with my parents and becoming competely overpowered by the scent of flowers.  Roses to be exact.  It was the most wonderful, soothing feeling I ever experienced.  At the moment, we knew we were not alone.  We knew there was a presence greater than us, watching us, comforting us and guiding my father to a better place, guiding him to heaven.  I watched my father leave his body, the body that fought so hard to stay with his family, the body that was poked and prodded by doctors for so many years.  I watched my father’s soul leave his body that night and enter the gates of Heaven.  My father’s death is something that now is a part of me, something I hold it in my heart right next to the massive void now where he once lived.

I have always told my Dad how much I loved him but the night of his passing I told him I loved him incessantly.  In the midst of endless tears I whispered to him, “You can go Dad, we got this, we will take care of Mom.”  As I bravely uttered those words it was like someone was turning a knife in my heart.  What I really wanted to scream was, “Please don’t go Daddy, I don’t care that I’m an adult, I NEED you.”   But you really can’t scream that to a man who just spent the last four years of his life unable to eat, enduring endless pain and suffering.  There’s a point where you must accept God’s will and try to be “strong.”  The key word here is try.

Six months later and I still have moments when I feel like my heart is breaking all over again.  I have crushing, gut-busting, overwhelming, debilitating pain.  And what is shocking to me is these moments come rushing in when it’s least expected.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

If you’ve been reading my blog you know I spoke to my Dad daily, multiple times throughout the day.  He even programmed a special ring on the phone for both my sister and my calls.  When it rang he would yell, “It’s my Lisa Mia!”  For a while the National Anthem played when I called, I remember laughing and saying, “Dad, I’m not the President!”  He smiled and said, “You’re my Miss America!”  That was my Dad, he loved his family.

Towards the end of his life his pain made the phone calls a challenge, but I still called.  I would tell him, “Dad it’s just me, I just want you to know I love you more.”  He would struggle to speak, but he always found the strength to whisper between excruciating gasps of pain, “You will always be my baby and I will always love you more.”

As time ticks on and I slowly realize that my Dad is really gone the pain becomes unbearable.  When I celebrate an accomplishment, or create a new memory I search for my Dad.  When I need advice I search for my Dad.  When I need someone to cheer me on and tell me I can do it, I search for my Dad.  When the world is too loud and I need a hug I want my Dad.  I pretty much search for my Dad all the time.

Last week I decided to write on another topic close to my heart, Loving a Police Officer In Today’s Crazy World.  The article had an awesome response.  I was on a fabulous high, proud of my words, proud of this accomplishment, and then I felt a tugging at my heart.  I really wanted to call my Dad.  I wanted so badly to share this happy moment with my Dad.  I wanted him to read my words and give me honest feedback.  I went from elated to devastated in seconds.  One minute I was smiling then next I was sobbing, holding my chest gasping for air. Once again I felt like Jekyll and Hyde.

This is what grief looks like.  Grief is complicated, messy and unpredictable.  Grief is a thief, robbing you of joyful moments, leaving you drowning in sorrow.  Grief can be ugly, but it can also be beautiful sending you signs from loved ones showing you a beautiful life that once was. But as beautiful as those signs are, grief sucks the life out of you and leaves you on your knees begging for mercy, yearning for just one more conversation, one more hug, one more moment with that person.



My Dad’s Death Made Me An Eavesdropper

There were a group of teenage girls hanging out at the mall today during lunch.  Armed with cell phones and lip gloss they were ready to conquer the world.

I watched a Dad in a BMW drop off the girls in front of the food court.  When the car door opened the girls charged out.  The Dad lingered and began calling his daughter.  I watched as she rolled her eyes and slowly made her way back.

I was paying more attention to the father daughter duo than my iced coffee and accidentally spilled some on my dress.  I was hypnotized.  Instantly my heart began to hurt, a little over five months ago my father died.  He was my biggest fan, my best friend and unconditionally loved me for me.

I watched as the father scolded the daughter for her very short shorts and “excessive” makeup.  I watched the girl stomp her feet, her shoulders slouch and eventually her entire body grew tense.  Her friends began to watch with me.  We all stood there staring anticipating their next move.

Eventually after some arguing and discipline the father drove away and the young girl skipped away with her friends.  She seemed defeated and angry.  I overheard her calling her father “Hitler” and “mean.”  She was “so done” with her Dad.

I wanted to run up and shake her.  I wanted to tell her, “Your Dad will always love you!  Someday he won’t be here! I wish my Dad was here right now yelling at me for short shorts and excessive make up!  You’re so lucky!” 

Didn’t she know her father was her biggest fan in life?  Like this guy really wanted a bunch of pubescent girls in his new BMW on this beautiful afternoon!  But that’s what father’s of daughters do they make sacrifices for their little girls and they love and protect them.

This past weekend on the beach I quietly observed a family enjoying a picture perfect Sunday at the Jersey shore.  Dad, Mom and their preteen daughter.   My chair had a bird’s eye view of the family.  Once again I observed like a creepy stalker.  Instantly, I became mesmerized.  I tried to not watch, but I couldn’t resist.  This family reminded me of my own family many years ago.

The Dad began telling his daughter he was not fond of her current boyfriend.  The daughter like most young girls thought Dad was totally clueless.  Her voice became high pitch and squeaky.  The Dad’s voice remained calm and concerned.  They sat facing the ocean discussing the daughter’s poor choice in boys for most of the afternoon.  The Dad kept telling his daughter he “only wanted what is best for her.”  At one point the daughter emerged from her beach chair and hugged her Dad.  It was a sight for sore eyes, it reminded of my younger self.

I wanted to high five the girl on the beach and tell her, “Love him, cherish him and tell him you appreciate him because someday he will not be here.”

To the Dads….We need your patience, we need your support, but above all else, we need to know that you are in our corner, unconditionally.  We are complicated and emotional but we will always need our Dads.  A woman’s father is her first love, he sets the expectations for how a man should treat a lady.

I’m blessed, I was given a lifetime with my Dad always on my side, always cheering me from the sidelines, always reminding me that I can do anything I set my mind to.

I miss my Dad every single second of the day, I miss our friendship and our beautiful rapport.  Friends, if you’re blessed to have your Dad still in your life hug him tight and never let go.  If you’re like me and your Dad is now your guardian angel take a moment to look up and whisper, “I love you.”

I miss my Dad.

For Better Or Worse: Loving a Police Officer In Today’s Crazy World


Photo Credit:  Photo Credit: Pinterest

Be patient. Be kind. Be thankful for our police officers. This is a difficult time to be a police officer. This is an emotional time to love a police officer. This is a time when the sound of velcro at the end of a loved one’s shift is a glorious sound.

Please take a moment to check out my latest article featured on Her View From Home.

For Better Or Worse: Loving a Police Officer In Today’s Crazy World

Thanks for the Memories…

Most days I welcome my happy little Facebook memories.

This week, leading up to the anniversary of my Father’s passing it’s a love hate relationship.

For those of you who do not know my Dad passed away after a long battle with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer.

The last 4 months of his life he was on hospice, and I was in total denial. I would walk around telling people hospice was to help him “get stronger.”

He was unable to eat orally for the last 4 years of his life; all of his nutrition came from a peg tube inserted in his stomach. Let me repeat that, he could not eat or drink orally for 4 years. He lived on Ensure and Gatorade all through a peg tube. He suffered from extensive nerve damage after his aggressive radiation treatments. He would shake and sometimes scream in pain. People often tell me to remember the good times, but if I forget how much he suffered then he suffered in vain and I can’t let that happen. I spoke to my father daily, visited weekly and with each visit another piece of him was ripped away. On my car rides home, I would punch my steering wheel and scream at God.

Why was I given front row seats to watch my beloved father suffer?

Five years later and I still do not have an answer for that.

The days leading up to my Father’s death were gut wrenching and emotional.

I had a very difficult time accepting that he was in fact dying. In my mind he was supposed to get better and eat again. See, I’m Italian and like many Italians we love our food. When my father lost his ability to eat a piece of me died. I became angry. Quite honestly, I am still angry. There is truth in the saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” People spend their lives chasing fad diets, depriving themselves of various foods for vanity and my father suffered and yearned to eat something, anything.

I didn’t realize how much I still carried this pain with me until I clicked on my Facebook memories today.

Thanks for that.

Those little Facebook memories always seem so friendly and inviting. “You have memories.”

Memories like sitting in the sunshine watching the ocean waves ride up to your toes.

This week is quite the opposite.

What Facebook should have said is “You have a painful nightmare, click here if you want to throw up.”

Even now, I scroll through those memories and my heart is shattered into a million pieces.

With each post leading up to the anniversary of my Father’s passing my heart is shattered over and over.

How quickly we can slip back into a memory and have it feel so real and raw…and if no time has passed.

Today I clicked on my Facebook memories and once again my heart shattered all over, my eyes filled with tears and the gut wrenching pain all returned.

Instantly I was brought back to the moment when I was sitting next to my Father’s hospital bed hysterical crying begging him not to die. Making childish bargains with him to please not leave me. I realize how incredibly stupid and selfish that sounds, but death does that to us. We get wonky. We say stupid stuff. We get angry. My father’s body was ready to leave this life but I wasn’t ready to let him go. I needed him, I still do.

Death is final and terrifying for the people left behind. Our parents teach us everything in life but how to survive without them.

Five years ago I cried until I had no more tears left and then I cried some more.

Five years ago I knew my Father was dying in the days to come.

Five years later, I’m thankful for the time God gave us with my father despite how painful some of those memories are.

I feel incredibly thankful and blessed that God gave us these last moments with my Father. My Dad already knew how much we adored him, but I was able to tell him one last time. On the day of my Father’s death I held the hand of the man who guided me throughout my entire life as he took his last breath. My Father was my best friend and my deepest inspiration for strength. There’s something profound about holding someone’s hand as they leave this life. Even more if that person is the center of your entire universe.

Monday will be five years that my Dad is gone, but I can still remember holding his hand as he took his last breath and my assurances to him that it was okay to let go. That despite my childish pleas just days before I would in fact be fine and to not worry about me.

Five years later and I have created my new normal without him.

There are moments that I still go to call him for his fatherly advice and those waves of grief come rushing in. But I consider myself blessed to have had a father who had such an impact on my life that even now he’s still missed.

These Facebook memories truly are a love hate relationship.

Some are gut wrenching and shatter my heart into a million pieces, but they remind me of what an honor it is to be the daughter of a man who fought so hard to live for his family.

And as long as I have breath in me I will be my father’s living, breathing legacy. I will tell his story and remind everyone of how hard he fought to be a part of this beautiful life.

These Facebook memories are a love hate relationship, but they also remind me of what a blessing this life is.

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Appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had

img_6902That 80’s hairband Cinderella was right. You absolutely do not know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

I thought I was prepared to say goodbye to my Dad after watching him suffer for 7 years, but the truth is you are never ready to say goodbye.

I knew my Dad was a larger than life, real life super hero. He was my father, my best friend and really the greatest man to ever walk to planet.

I learned how to dance while standing on top of his feet, he taught me how to throw a baseball, but most importantly  with an enormous amount of love and patience he showed me how to stand on my own two feet and helped me evolve into the independent woman I am today. Right up until he took his last breath he was telling me he loved me. I know God smiled at me the day he chose me to be Al’s daughter.

My Dad prepared me for almost everything life would throw into my path, but I wasn’t ready for the incredible pain I would feel once he was gone. I wasn’t ready to feel as if someone tore my heart out with a butcher knife leaving it outside my body for me to attempt to put back.

My father was a fighter and he fought hard to be with his family. I took for granted that he would continue to fight and would just be here with us forever. I never stopped to think that someday he just wouldn’t be here.

I absolutely adored my father. I cherished every single second we had together. I took hundreds of photos together, so many he would call me the paparazzi and we would laugh endlessly. I posted our hospital selfies on Facebook and he would call me to announce how many likes we had. I never knew all of those wonderful moments would evolve into memories. I never thought despite all the photos we took, someday they just would not be enough.

One day my Dad was here and the next day he was gone.

One day I was standing next to my Dad’s hospital bed quickly talking to him because I had to get home and the next day he was gone.

One day I was rushing my father off the phone to watch television, and the next day I would be yearning to call him.

I always made visiting my father a priority – NOTHING was more important than spending time with my father. But even with that, there was just never enough time.

Cherish every single second with your father.

Pick up that phone and call him. Stop making excuses no one is too busy to call their parents.

Visit him. Stop making excuses no one is too busy to visit a sick parent.

Love hard and forgive the mistakes because we are all human.

As my Dad’s quality of life diminished and his illness progressed, my entire world exploded.

I was never ready to say goodbye and I’m still not ready to live in this world without my father. I miss him with every single breath I take. I still cry for him and yearn for the incredible father daughter bond we had. It’s been three years and I’m still learning how to survive in a world that doesn’t have a seat at the table for my person of significance.

Learn from my heartache friends, make the time to appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had.

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The Greatest Gift My Father Left Me

IMG_3416This Sunday will be my third Sunday as a fatherless daughter on Father’s Day. The pain doesn’t go away, you just learn how to disguise it. My father died after a seven year battle with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer. He spent the last four years of his life surviving on a peg tube inserted into his belly. That peg tube was his sole means of nutrition.

I felt robbed. Robbed of the relationship I dreamed of having with my father as he grew older. Taking him out to a restaurant or pretty much anyplace was out of the question. He was too sick and frail and couldn’t eat orally. As my father’s health was ripped away from him I became angry. I couldn’t understand how my father, the man who was larger than life now needed my assistance just too slowly shuffle to the restroom and eventually press a button on the television’s remote control to change the channel.

It wasn’t fair.

Why my father?

The moment my father took his last breath was one of those unprecedented moments, a moment that is now a part of me, a moment that defines me. A moment that, despite my father being so ill I could never imagine the pain and the waves of sorrow that would try to suffocate me for the rest of my life. I could never imagine the enormous void my father was about to have on our family. As I held his hand and watched my father take his last breath, I felt pain so ferocious I was positive that I too was dying.

I would be lying if I told you that three years later I had some sort of an epiphany and I’m okay with the suffering my father endured. I’m not.  I would be lying if I told you that as time goes by the holidays become easier. They don’t. I would be lying if I told you I no longer have moments where I feel incredibly small and alone in this world as a fatherless daughter. I do.

And my pain is magnified during weekends like Father’s Day.

While my friends are scrambling for the perfect gift for Dad, and others are trying to squeeze their father into their chaotic schedules, I’m trying to figure out what flower will last on my father’s grave. I desperately try to quiet my brain as I’m bombarded with the endless Father’s Day commercials and I sometimes scream at my television, “Do you have the perfect gift for the dead Dad?”

Since my father died, each June, I now have an ache from missing my father on Father’s Day. But despite my heartache, I know I was fortunate enough to be raised by a man that loved me enough to leave a mark to last a lifetime. I know I am truly blessed to be one of “Al’s daughters.” My love for my father is so massive, that even three years after his death it remains unfinished and messy in a tangle of emotions that surround a day that will always be for him.

And even now, as a grown up I would do anything to hear his voice, to spend just five more minutes with him. I would still do anything to buy him the best gift money could buy and to take him to the fanciest restaurant around, when in my heart I know he would be just as happy with that silly macaroni tie that said, “My Dad Is Rad.” That gift I made him a lifetime ago, back in kindergarten. Because he loved me.  And love is the greatest gift my father gave me, a gift that never dies.

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The Power of Journaling

fashion woman notebook pen

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Ten years ago, when my father was diagnosed with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer none told me that I was about to embark on the ride of my life. As my father began his grueling treatments I went out and purchased journals. I began to feverishly put my feelings down on paper and document this new, often horrific journey.

My journey with grief began the day a mass on the base of my father’s tongue was given a name – squamous cell carcinoma. As a matter of fact, I still have the paperwork that I frantically faxed over to the team of doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering to evaluate my father. The cover sheet in my father’s handwriting ends with “I would like to see the doctor as soon as possible. Thanks for your help.”

Our family had no idea the cruel battle we were about to embark on. We only knew that that we needed my father to live. Life without him was unimaginable, it still is and he’s been gone three years.

I watched cancer hijack my father’s body until I could hardly recognize him. Those radiation treatments for that “little” mass at the base of his tongue wreaked havoc on his entire body. The radiation eventually destroyed his entire epiglottis, making it impossible to eat or drink orally for the last four years of his life, relying on a feeding tube inserted in his belly for his sole means of nutrition.

Sunken cheekbones, his dark hair gone white. Pale, pasty skin. Brown eyes that were distant, almost empty. Strong hands that had guided me throughout my entire life became thin and frail, and often trembled. The last four years of my father’s life are forever etched in my brain, a painful reminder to never take life for granted.

A few weeks after my father’s death, my husband encouraged me to write down my feelings and send them to the Huffington Post. I thought he lost his mind. Who wants to hear my sob story? I was already on the verge of depression, why would I share my darkest feelings with the entire world? Instantly I envisioned internet trolls making a mockery of my grief. My husband’s response to me was, “Steve Harvey had a make up blogger on his show yesterday and I don’t really know what she was talking about, but I think you should share your articles. People will read them, I believe in you.” I laughed and began to critique a very private essay I wrote to my mom who was my father’s caregiver for his entire journey with cancer. I then decided to go big or go home, and I sent my article to Ariana Huffington. I remember thinking, well if I’m going to share my deepest feelings with the entire world let’s start with someone I admire.

The next day I was a Huffington Post Blogger. I also began journaling again.

Why? Because grief has a way of making you feel like you’re trapped on a deserted island and you’re all alone. My articles and journals have been my lifesaver when no one could save me. And guess what there have been no internet trolls, just some really incredible people who are also hurting as they embark on their own grief journey.

Grief is a long, lonely journey and my journals and expressive art are my most intimate, trusted friends during one of the darkest, most difficult times of my life.

If you’re lucky, friends and family will offer as much comfort as they can give, but they all have their own lives to live and after the funeral most people don’t want to hear your sad story repeatedly. Let’s face it, grief makes most people uncomfortable. We live in a society where death is taboo, and we are expected to “get over it.” Unfortunately, there is no getting over a person of significance. Where there is great love, there is great grief, and if we do not find an outlet we will not heal. If you broke your arm would you leave it unattended? So why do many choose to ignore their grief and think it will just vanish?

Writing has provided me immense comfort and relief at a time when nothing or no one else could. My writing is one of the places where I can speak the truth and express my emotions. My journal is always there for me to listen to the same story, over and over, without judgment until I am ready to move onto the next chapter.

Journaling is is an effective way to keep their legacy alive.

10 years ago, I was unaware that expressive writing and journal therapy are actual ways for healing. I’ve always grabbed a pen to document my feelings, to process what was happening. By putting my emotions on paper, I could somehow make sense of what seemed impossible and find strength to carry on.

Journaling is also the cheapest form of self-care there is and a great way to heal grief. Even if you don’t start your own blog and share your raw emotions with the entire world, I challenge you to go buy a journal and start documenting your feelings throughout your grief journey. Why not keep a journal by your bed and each night write down your feelings, you never know you might find it helpful.

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