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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50 Shades of Grief

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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.

WRONG! 

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

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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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Watching A Parent Battle Cancer Is Hell On Earth Torture

IMG_6745You have not felt a broken heart until you have heard your larger than life heroic father scream in pain.  

Watching a parent die is excruciating, watching a parent die who is also your best friend is hell on earth. For four years we searched for someone to help my father.  Someone with a miracle, someone to give him some sort of quality of life. I spoke to my father several times a day, visited at least once a week.  With each visit I witnessed him slowly dying.  As my dad’s sickness stole pieces of him, pieces of me were dying as well.

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What Grieving Loved Ones Need During The Holidays

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Photo Credit:  Pinterest

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.

Love Is Stronger Than Death

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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

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Grief’s Little Sister: Disappointment

 

  Photo Credit: Pinterest

We have all seen it.  We have all experienced it.  When someone we once respected disappoints us we climb to the highest mountain and declare our disappointment to the world while others sit back and wait for karma to do her job.  However we handle disappointment it leaves a scalding sting.

You’ll end up really disappointed if you think people will do for you as you do for them…”  Unknown

But how do you handle disappointment while grieving?  How do you handle disappointment during a time when you are at your most vulnerable and desperately need additional TLC?

Pain deserves acknowledgement not repair.    We live in a society were grief and death are taboo.  Society has no idea on how to handle grief.  For many non-grievers they have a strong urge to “fix” you.  They want you to “feel better.”  When in reality a grieving person is not sick, you can only be there for them.

The massive void in my heart has taken up permanent residency. It’s a void that only my father can fill.

Losing my Dad has altered my life forever.

I will never be the same.

We shared beautiful memories that were ours.  Memories that shaped our relationship and are forever a part of me.

In the four months that my Dad is gone he would be happy to see how so many friends and family have been so kind and compassionate.  He would be upset and shocked at the individuals who fanned the flames of gossip during the darkest moments of his family’s existence. They didn’t have the patience and the compassion to support us.

Because I am my father’s daughter I forgive them.  I pity them for their weakness and ignorance. For they will never know the definition of pure, unconditional love.

Losing my Dad has changed my view of the world.  My grief has forced me to reevaluate relationships and prioritize my life.

I will not allow my disappointment to cloud my grief.  I will never be the same now that my Dad is gone.  I am now someone who has lost a parent, a best friend, my hero.  One of the greatest challenges of losing a parent is that so few really understand.  Oh sure, people SAY they understand but if they truly did understand would they gossip and judge because you are not grieving to their standards?

Grief won’t win.  Disappointment won’t win.

Dad, I promise you that you will always be remembered and loved.

I am your daughter.  I will be your voice, I will share your story,  I will share the brave battle you fought.  As long as I have breath in me, I will be your living, breathing legacy.

I will let go of my disappointment and simply be sad as I mourn the loss of my hero.

 

 

 

 

 

My First Father’s Day without my Dad

IMG_3376One of my father’s greatest gifts was his ability to love others unconditionally, flaws and all.  When I would complain to him about my perception of one’s ignorance he would always smile and say, “Lisa honey ignore them.  Be happy.” 

If you Google “First Father’s Day without Dad” you will instantly become inundated with post after post.  It’s only May and I’m feeling the anxiety building up for my very own first father’s day without my Dad.  I’ve been living on Advil and feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of it.  There are no words to describe the heartache I’m feeling and how much I miss my father.

As a little girl I would rush into my parents bedroom Father’s Day morning with my best attempt at serving breakfast in bed screaming, “Happy Father’s Day Daddy!  My Dad is so rad!!!”  Maybe not the best poem, but hey I was a kid.  One particular Father’s Day I tripped onto their bed, spilled the entire bowl of Cheerios on both my parents, milk and all.  I can still hear my father laughing and thanking me for thinking of him.

You simply cannot escape the Father’s Day madness.  The other day I took a massive detour in the grocery store to avoid walking past the overwhelming, obnoxious Father’s Day display of greeting cards. Bad enough the music they play now makes me cry at the drop of a hat.  I refuse to walk past the greeting card aisle until Father’s Day is long gone.  As if all that isn’t bad enough there’s the never ending Father’s Day advertising.

Buy Dad a grill set this Father’s Day!  

Bring home a delicious ice cream cake for Dad this Father’s Day!

Take Dad out for a big juicy steak this Father’s Day!

Pretty much every single Father’s Day advertisement revolves around food.  Way before I began grieving the death of my father, I was grieving the loss of his ability to eat. Our family became quite creative each holiday.  We proudly pounded our chests and exclaimed, “We do not need to revolve our holidays around food!”  Despite all this, a small piece of me was envious of the endless social media posts proudly displaying other families enjoying a mouth watering Father’s Day meal.  I wanted so badly to take my father to a restaurant for his favorite meal and raise my glass to my father on his special day.

My normal routine leading up to Father’s Day would start with me asking my father the following, “Dad what do you want this year?” Like many Dads he would respond, “You, your sister and your mother are my gifts, just be happy.”   I would then drive myself crazy finding him the perfect set of pajamas, perhaps something personalized for him, something to remind him just how much I adored him.  I would mail him at least 3 cards.  A funny card, a mushy sentimental card and another card because I could never make my mind up. 

This year the will be no searching for the perfect gift, no quest for the perfect card, no beating myself up thinking of something non food related to make my father smile.  My father died after a long, valiant battle with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer.  My only purchase will be some nice flowers and candles to put on his grave.

Just four months ago, I watched my father, the most wonderful man I know die.  First, cancer stole his ability to eat.  Slowly he lost so much weight that you could count his ribs.  Then he could no longer use the restroom on his own or get out of bed on his own.  During the final days of his life he was so weak he couldn’t even lift his hand to press the button on the remote control for the television.   Eventually my father’s voice became so gurgly it was a challenge to understand what he was trying to tell us.  Bit by bit cancer was ripping my father apart and I had a front row seat. 

Now all I’m left with are a lifetime of beautiful memories that send me into a tailspin of anxiety, depression, endless tears and a broken heart.   If you’re reading this and your father is alive promise me you will hug your father this Father’s Day and take him out to dinner.  Promise me you if you were blessed like me you will thank your father for a wonderful life.

If you’re like me, and you have lost a father whom you love and adore let’s embrace Father’s Day with gratitude and courage.  Let’s celebrate the our father’s memory and courage.  Countless individuals walk through life never experiencing unconditional fatherly love, to them Father’s Day represents a massive void.   There are many who will never know the love of a father.  When I think of this, I realize that I have been blessed with a magnificent man for a father.  

My father has always been my hero, the man who loved me unconditionally and made everything better. Even in death, he continues to show me he is always there for me.  This Father’s Day I will do something to honor my father.  Maybe I’ll release balloons, plant a tree, pay it forward.  I haven’t decided yet, but I will do something to make my new guardian angel proud and smile.

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Happy Father’s Day in heaven Daddy, I love you more.