Who would have ever thought that the sight of a pink artificial sweetener packet on my kitchen counter would cause me to break down? Literally send me sobbing to my bed, trying to find my next breath and my composure to carry on with my day. But, there I was. These paper packets were here at my house, and he wasn’t. He was never going to put them in his morning coffee again.
My father passed away on April 21 of this year after battling an eight-month illness. He went into the hospital on September 13, 2018, and was there until he passed. In the past three months, every time a holiday or a special day rolls around, people ask me how I’m doing. The first Father’s Day. His birthday. The Fourth of July. And I’ll admit that these “firsts” have been difficult. But, you know what’s even more difficult? The first July 5 or July 8. Each day brings something new. Each minute brings a new piece that is missing from my life.
I read a quote today from Wayne Muller: “When we come close to those things that break us down, we touch those things that also break us open. And in that breaking open, we uncover our true nature.”
There are no words I could type to describe how much I resonate with that. I feel the words in my core like they are etched onto my bones. When my dad passed, I broke down and broke open. For 47 years of my life, my dad was there every single day. The last six years, he was even there physically every single day, as my husband and I moved into my childhood home to help him and my mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. I could hear his footsteps every morning in the kitchen, banging cups and making noise as he poured his first cup of coffee. Every night before going to bed, no matter where I was in the house, he would find me and say, “I’m going to hit it. I love you.” Every day. I honestly don’t remember a day in my life when I didn’t hear my dad say those words to me.
As an only child, born to older parents, I was the center of my parents’ life and attention. But, it was my dad and I that truly had a special relationship. No matter what I did, he was there to support me; not only when I succeeded, but when I failed as well. He was my one constant since that day in January of 1972 when I took my first breath. Now, he’s left me trying to exist in a world where he doesn’t, and every day it breaks me open a bit more.
My goal has become trying to figure out who I am now. My dad is gone, and my mom, though still here, is gone mentally and emotionally. So, I am no longer a daughter in practice. The one person who I knew I could always count on is gone, and I feel like I am all alone in the world.
A wise friend recently told me that grief is not linear. And that I can attest to. The past three months have been a roller coaster ride- the kind where you can’t see what’s up ahead. There are highs and lows and days when your stomach ends up in your feet.
Grief has set me in a new direction, and most days, I’m not sure what is up and what is down. I do know that navigating this new landscape is the challenge of my life. But, I need to make my dad proud of everything I do from this point on. I need to live my life with the pure abandon and enjoyment that he led his. He savored every moment of his life. Whether it was spending time with his family, playing cards, or eating (his three favorite things), he did them with every ounce of his being. And I need to learn a lesson there and continue his legacy by living the same way.