When 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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