I wasn’t going to write about this today. I had hoped not to give this day much thought. I don’t have anything written on my calendar to distinguish this day from any other.
But my heart knows what day it is.
It isn’t that I don’t want to remember you, Daddy. You know me better than that. It’s just my memories of you seem to have divided themselves into two categories: BC, Before Cancer, and The Year—The Year Cancer Came and Changed Everything. Although they still cause me to miss you, I don’t so much mind visiting the BC memories. It’s the other memories I try to avoid. Whenever I go back there I feel the fear again and it takes my breath away. We all tried to be brave and we hung on to hope like the lifeline it was, but that was also the year I met fear face to face. Sure, I’d been afraid before, but I’d always been the trusting kind who just dipped her toe in the pool of anxiety but for never long enough to really get wet. That year I dove in head first and swam awhile. And I learned sometimes all the hoping and trusting in the world won’t give you what you really want. I know it’s better for you to be where you are but three years later, I’m still not convinced it’s better for me.
Three years. How has it been three years since you left us? My grief still feels just as sharp and the missing you is not even the slightest bit easier. And yet…it feels like you’ve been gone so much longer and you’ve missed so much. It feels like you’ve continued to moved “onward and upward” further away from us. I don’t know how deep Heaven is, but it feels like you’ve traveled much farther in your three years there than you ever did in your not quite sixty-three years here.
I watch TV and wonder if you would have liked “Revolution.” I know you would have loved the new Tommy Walker Hymns CD. Would you already have an iPhone 5? Would you be taking Mom to see the new James Bond movie on Thursday night date night? I try a new recipe and mentally place it in the file of Treats My Dad Would Have Loved and I would give anything to be able to make it for you. I think I’m constantly quizzing myself on what you would or wouldn’t like because it’s my way of hanging on to the man I knew well.
But I can’t also help but wonder how Heaven has changed you and how you would tell us to live knowing what you do now.
Your leaving has certainly changed us. Dad, you’d be so proud of Chris and Mom. Chris is truly becoming the man you always knew he was. He loves with all his heart and he goes above and beyond to try to be there for Mom. He looks so much like you it breaks my heart and he is becoming more and more like you, which is the highest compliment I could pay any man. And Mom? Dad, you’d be so very proud. She has tried so hard, this year especially, to move on to the next chapter of her life. She hasn’t wanted to do it and it’s been the hardest thing she has ever done, but she is doing the hard work that it takes to figure out who she is on her own. Besides losing the love of her life and her very best friend, life has not been kind to her. She has had plenty of reasons in the past three years to choose to be bitter, angry, and hurt. But she is fighting back and I think she’s finally winning.
And me? I’m still working through it all. I quit writing for a long time. Also, I made so much of my grieving public and although I don’t regret doing that, I needed to wrestle through some things in my own quiet place without an audience. But what I’ve discovered is that when I quit writing, I also quit wrestling. I was telling a friend I was reminded of when Jacob wrestled God and said, “I won’t let go until you bless me,” but when I wrestled God, I said, “You can stay and keep fighting if you want, but I’m out of here.” A break from being sad was not a bad thing, but I found myself moving drifting away from God and any kind of connection with Him.
Somewhere along the way I got you and God mixed up to the point that when you left, it felt a lot like God did, too. I am going to have to figure out a way to separate the two of you.
Another reason I was hesitant to do anything publicly to mark this day is because I didn’t want to play on others’ emotions. So many people have supported my family and loved us through the last three years. To write on this day felt like a maudlin attempt to play on people’s sympathy. But I’m also writing because I’m so afraid people are going to forget you. I’ve seen how life goes on and people go on about their days. And they should. But you were such a great man and I want people to remember you. I want them to remember how you made them feel when they were with you. I want them to think about the difference your life made in the short time you were on this planet. My babies had just turned six when you left. I am so afraid they’re losing the memories they had of you. I don’t want them to forget. I don’t want anyone to forget.
I don’t want to forget.
So I write. I write on one of the days I’d like to forget the most. I remember the bad along with the good because you are worth remembering.
*MGO stands for My Grief Observed. They are posts I write about my grief over my dad moving to Heaven and leaving me here.