Two years ago today, I lost my father. He’d been fighting lung cancer for a year and though he fought hard, the cancer won, as it does too many times. He lived several states away, so I wasn’t there when he died. My last visit had been a couple of weeks prior, and I was making plans to go back for a longer visit. I wanted to be there for him, and my mother. She said he wouldn’t have wanted me to see him that way but I wish I could have. As hard as it is, there’s a small perfect beauty in that journey, in being a part of that moment.
I guess everyone wants as much time as possible, and I’m no different. I wanted to hug him again, hold his hand again like I hadn’t since I was a child, tell him again and again that I love him. I didn’t care that he was thin, that he was struggling to walk and breathe, that he’d lost most of his hair. I know he cared; he wanted me to remember him the way he was. And I do. But I remember him sick too, because it was such a full time. He and I spoke more candidly and honestly during those months than we ever had. I felt free to hold his hand like I never did, because we both wanted that connection.
So yes, I remember him sick and well. I remember him every way. I remember him every day. I miss him every day. It’s been a hard two years in many ways. It breaks my heart that there are so many things he doesn’t know, that he’ll never see. He would be happy that I quit my job to stay home with the kids, if for no other reason than because I’m happier. He would love that I sold my boring hybrid to buy a faster muscle car, and he’d want to drive it. He wouldn’t like the purple hair, but he’d grin and shrug and say, “If you like it, it’s okay with me.” He would love my new dog, and have so much fun playing with him. He would love to see how kind and thoughtful my teenage daughter is growing up. He would love to see my son, his namesake, wear his ties with pride.
But I have to find other small comforts. I love to imagine his dog, who died a few months ago, running up to him in the great sunny dog park in the sky. I cherish the dreams he appears in, remembering the almost tangible hugs I’ve gotten in them. I am so grateful that his illness brought our family close again, literally and figuratively, and I try to do for them what I think he would want to do himself if he could. I’m trying to live in a way that would make him proud. Thanks for showing me the way, Daddy.
It’s nearly 6 years since I lost my Dad. We were so close, and I’ve been through lots of phases in grieving. I can really identify with what you say about “such a full time”. My father’s last years were intense with so many ups and downs and frightening moments. And I bore the bulk of the weight, because my siblings were elsewhere. But I wouldn’t trade those times with my Dad for anything. We are more fully alive when life is in doubt, because we discard all the trivia that normally distracts us.
Thanks for this beautiful post.
Thank you for your kind words. In some ways it’s gotten easier, but in others it’s harder. I know it must have been hard for you to do it without much help–I leaned a lot on my siblings, which helped us grow closer. I don’t know, there’s just so much emotion in these experiences that you don’t understand until you go through them yourself, and it feels a bit comforting to find someone who truly sympathizes. I love your line about discarding the trivia at distracts us; so true.