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Saturday, October 25, 2014

When You Lose Your Father...

*NOTE: I wrote this post in August on my dad's birthday, but it has taken me a while to finally share.
When you lose your father, everything changes.  A wound is forever etched on your heart.  It doesn't matter if you are 23 years old or 63 years old, your world is forever altered.  The man who was a constant in your life since birth is gone.  The one that you looked to for advice no longer available.  The man who saw you for everything you could be and become, and believed in you when others did not.  Gone.

It was in that moment, when my dad died, that all of sudden my world became a place of daughters who have fathers and daughters without fathers.  Almost 11 years after his death, and I still feel pains of jealousy when I watch a father hug his daughter.  October 2003 was the last time I hugged mine. 
Today my father would have celebrated his 63rd birthday, except time froze for him at 52.  These last few months have been incredibly painful and emotional.  Grief is an ever-changing emotion.  I can best relate grief to ocean waves.  Sometimes they are rough and loud and all encompassing, and other times gentle, quiet and subdued.  Either way...the waves never leave you.  The same is true of grief.  It becomes part of who you are... a sort of emotional tattoo that is never to be removed. 
It is not a secret that I have been in therapy since May.  Life, day-to-day stress, job, anxiety, depression...I've been struggling, but I've also been fighting and processing.  In the midst of processing and therapy I have discovered I have an underlying "theme" so to speak.  My last decade could have been appropriately named, "Loss".   So much loss in such a short period of time.  Two miscarriages exactly one year apart to the day.  September 29.  Two precious babies, two lives gone.  A dream realized at the turning of two pink lines, and a dream destroyed by death of children unheld by human arms.  Girl and boy.  Pink and blue.  Lucy and Zachary.  Never to breathe, never to cry, never to enter this world. 
Then five weeks after the loss of my second baby, the loss of my father.   So young, so much life left.  Cancer.  It came and took.  It robbed me of years with him.  It cheated me of conversations, advice and holidays.  Cancer stole the meeting of his grandchildren.  It took the very breath within him.  Depleted him of the light that shined to so many.  Cancer gripped and took a man from earth that loved people, who wasn’t afraid to touch the lives of others and to love.  Cancer ripped him from my closed fisted grasp.  I clung onto his life but cancer didn’t care.  
There was barley time for anything… barely time to make arrangements, barely time to embrace… to say last words.  “I love you” whispered through tears running down his sunken cheeks.  Barely time for warm October sun to shine long enough to brush his face through ICU windows, to make last requests…promises. And then to unwillingly release him…to let go...finally to open my hand....gone.

As with anger there are stages of grief.  And unfortunately you don't cycle through them all one time and then your done.  I have learned you can cycle through many different times and move from one stage to the next and then back to another.  An ongoing process that continues to mark the years.

Milestones pass for my children...first steps, first words, first days of school, holidays, Christmas programs, baseball games.  Sometimes I find myself looking for him...sometimes I am not looking for him and another person reminds me of him.  It grieves my heart that he never met Luke, Grace and Bella.  That he never met David's wife Katie.  Life continues on...but the pain remains.  Quiet sometimes and fierce at other times, and it makes me angry that they are missing out on him.  His generosity, his sense of humor, his funny adventures, his unconventional problem solving, his heart. 
I have such wonderful memories of my father.  He would drive David and I to school several mornings of the week while my mom worked at the law firm.  He would fire up the big Chevy green van.  It would roar to life and he would ever so delicately balance his hot mug of coffee the entire way.  How he didn't spill it is beyond me? 

In Fremont, CA he owned a mobile home wash and wax business.  There were a few times I got to go to work with him in the little red truck.  It was fun to help him wash the homes and eat out of the white and red igloo.  I especially enjoyed when he would let me shift gears in the truck. 

Sometimes Dad would get so irritated with David at times with all his requests and ideas.  But David knew his soft spots and Dad would relent.  It was a fun sort of show to watch :)  David is gifted with my dad's people skills.  Today David is an extremely successful business man.  I know dad would be beaming with pride for David. 

Another memory that I think on often is September 11, 2001.  Dad and I spent September 11 together in matching blue recliners.  He woke me up that day and we sat glued to the TV for hours.  Just him and me. 

I never doubted my dad's love and acceptance.  Yes, he was human and made mistakes and was definitely not perfect.  But the things that mattered...that really mattered...he made sure David and I were paying attention.  My dad loved people!  He could talk to anyone.  He loved being a pastor of a church even though at times it was a difficult job.  He cared about the poor, hurting and hungry. He gave generously.

When you lose your father, you lose part of your identity.  You lose someone that you look up to, a friend, confidant, and one of your biggest supporters.  In losing my father, I have taken up his gauntlet of loving and caring about others, and about investing in my children and family.  And perhaps when you really think about it he continues to live on in lives of my brother and I.  A sort of extension of the man he was through our actions and lives.  Happy Birthday Dad!  Will always miss and love you! 

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