Why I Won’t Apologize for Choosing Happiness

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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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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.