11 Years

The last picture I have of my Dad and I was taken in May of 2002. I was a senior in high school and was wearing all black and stage make up to perform in my high school musical. I had the leading role and would be going to college on a voice scholarship in the fall.

My Dad wore a red t-shirt tucked into his blue jeans and a belt; his signature style. 

We have our arms around each other and big smiles. 

Then, at 7:20 in the morning on October 5th, 2002, he would pass away.

I kept that picture in a small frame with pink metal flowers for a long time. With me in my college dorm room after I dropped out and returned, changing my major. With me in my first apartment and the first home my husband and I had together.

And somewhere along the way, with moves and with time, the little frame with the metal flowers and the picture of my Dad and I got packed in a box. Packed away as more of a memory than an item to be unpacked and displayed.

A lot changes in eleven years. Graduations, marriages, jobs, babies, moves.

Eleven years feels like a long time. It is a long time. Its an amount of time that allows a lot of things to change.

And people say that time heals all wounds.

I thought eleven years would be a long time.

But today, on the eleventh anniversary of my Dad passing away, I found myself in tears. Sobbing, hysterical tears. Not able to get out of the bed tears. Or talk to my son without crying tears.

I didn’t think eleven years would have felt like that. So I decided to have a regular day. I had 8 hours worth of rehearsal today. And I went to them, just like I was supposed to. And I made a spectical of myself and cried the ugly cry and had to explain that even eleven years later, the passing of my Dad felt as if it had just happened.

How even eleven years later, the wound was fresh and I could remember the details of the entire day. Like the hole in my heart had just been created.

The first few anniversaries of his death I gave myself permission not to do anything. I would skip class and spend the day crying in bed. Perhaps not functional, but it was my own version of therapy and it allowed me to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of public crying.

The anniversary in 2006 was the first one that I actually went about as a normal day. I was teaching in England, and I got up and taught. And the day was actually good.

There have been other anniversaries like that. Where it wasn’t so heart wrenching; it just WAS. I dreaded last year’s the most; the tenth anniversary seemed like such a milestone and a significant time period. My mom, brother, sister and I wanted to commemorate that occasion so we went on a weekend get away, just the four of us. It was a lovely weekend and the perfect way to celebrate and remember.

This year didn’t feel so significant. Eleven isn’t even a significant number. I had rehearsals and regular life on the calendar.

And yet, as it tends to happen with grief, this anniversary took me by surprise and left me inconsolable well into the afternoon.

The people who came to tell me it would be ok at the church rehearsal were older ladies who would say, “I lost my Dad a couple of years ago. I know what you’re going through.”

And I appreciate it. I do.

I can’t imagine that losing a partner would be easy at any point in life.

But we all know that this happens. We know that we grow older and pass away. We know that as we age our parents age, too. We must expect that at some point, in their old age, our parents will pass.

I feel like it’s entirely different losing a parent when you are young. They didn’t get to live their entire lives. They didn’t get to do everything in their careers, or travel everywhere they wanted, or become a grandparent. They didn’t get to be there for all of the things in yours. They missed your graduations, your wedding, and your baby.

I don’t think you know what that’s like unless you’ve experienced it. To have your heart entirely broken and then pieced back together again, every so slowly, and then every once in a while it loses one of the pieces all over again and you feel that you are starting over.

Starting back at the beginning of the most vulnerable time when you lost a part of yourself.

The truth is, I hate this day.

I hate the way that it always makes me remember losing him. I remember the good parts and the bad parts and our family and who he was as a father and a husband. But I remember those parts everyday. Those are the parts I can tell to my son when something makes me think of my Dad, or when I look into my son’s eyes, because I am lucky enough to have a child with my Dad’s eyes.

I hate that it makes me ponder all of the things that could have been different; SHOULD have been different if he were still here.

I hate that this day makes me remember the details of the day we lost him. The sting of that realization, the exact moment when you are told that your whole life is forever changed.

And I hate that I will never know, for the rest of my life, what days it will strike like this. What days the grief will become so overwhelming that you just can’t plaster on your usual smile and get through your day. That being comforted by someone who says “It’s ok” and “I know what you’re going through” seem meaningless because you are absolutely certain that no one knows exactly the extent of your pain or your loss.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. It lessens them, perhaps. I’m not grief stricken every day. It’s not as intense as it was at first, or as paralyzingly hard as the very first anniversary.

But when the grief comes washing over you, it unavoidably takes you back to that first place. The first time that you felt yourself break.

And sometimes there’s nothing you can do but to live there until it passes.

I can’t believe it’s been eleven years. I miss you every day, Dad. I love you.

My Dad 2002

My Dad 2002

 

 

 

October 5th

I remember the day vividly. Of course I do.

Over time, its events have transpired into a movie in my mind, playing on a continuous reel that occasionally makes its way to the forefront. In it, I am watching myself as though I wasn’t a part of it, as though it wasn’t me living those moments.

I see myself as I get the news, as I cry, as I process.

I remember all the details; even the blurry ones.

So on the morning of October 5th this year, I was transported back to that day ten years prior, the day my Dad passed away.

There was my mind made movie, playing all morning as I recalled those things that I already know so well; the events of the day that changed everything.

This October 5th, I woke up in sobs and let the tears stain my pillow as the toddler slept peacefully beside me.

The anniversary of this loss is hard every year, but ten years seems so significant. Ten years. A decade. A milestone.

I miss him everyday. I grieve all of the momentous things he has missed in my life. College graduation. My wedding. Meeting my son.

But there is so much I have missed seeing of him. The way he would have loved seeing the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. The way he would have loved the historical election where Obama became President. All of the Christmas presents I missed getting to see him open and Father’s Days we never got to celebrate. Getting to see him be a granddad.

He is forever a part of me. I see it every time I look in the mirror as his eyes stare back at me. I hear him every time the Beatles song “Imagine” is played, even all of the bad cover bands. I feel him every time I say my son’s full name, because we gave our son my Dad’s name, Richard, as a middle name. I smile every time I pass a chess set, or watch my son play soccer, or stare into my son’s eyes, because, luckily, he has those same big eyes, too.

Yes, I remember that day. But I remember so much more of him as my father and I missed so much more of him in these ten years since he has been gone.

So on October 5th, rather than transporting myself back to that day, I let my mind movie play and I let my tears fall. Then I got my little boy dressed and we had a play date at the Botanical Gardens, surrounding ourselves with butterflies and flowers.

And then I think my family gave each other the greatest gift; we gave each other a weekend of each other.

Leaving the husband and toddler at home, my mom, sister, brother and I went away for a weekend to Charlottesville, VA. We immersed ourselves in laughter and conversation, scenery and adventure, and no shortage of extravagant food.

Nothing will change the significance of the loss, the way his presence is missed daily, the way my heart grieves eternally for the man that I was lucky enough to have as my father.

But this year, on this tenth year of the day we lost my father, we celebrated my Dad with love and laughter, just the four of us.

I know for certain that there were still five of us there.

“Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

Spending time with my family, remembering and celebrating my Dad who helped create it.

My Dad

Heavy Grey

Clouds coated the sky in a blanket of grey, clinging to the sky and soaking into my bones.

The heaviness of the earth mirrored the heaviness of my heart, as my footsteps interrupted the calm of the puddles decorating the pavement.

I even mirrored my mood, ever so subconsciously, in an outfit of blue jeans, a gray and white striped shirt, and gray cardigan.

It’s almost here, isn’t it? This day that creeps up slowly and then presents itself quickly as it makes it presence known; this day that changed so much.

October 5th will be the tenth anniversary of the day my Dad passed away. It will mark ten years since I have seen his face, heard his voice, or felt his hug.

I don’t exactly dread the day, but I do feel it’s presence and it’s significance. It is a day that changed everything, a day that forces me to remember, but the moments that I miss my Dad are much more frequent and emotional. October 5th is not a cursed day for me like September 1st. October 5th was awful ten years ago, but the day itself has not been repeatedly bad, just saddening.

People say time heals all wounds, but I don’t think you ever heal from the loss of a parent. I think the intensity of the pain becomes much less, and time may distance you from the event, but never from the emptiness.

The best description was explained to me by my grief counselor who I saw for a few months after my Dad passed. He said losing someone is like throwing a rock into a calm lake. At first, the ripples are large and big and interrupt the calm of the surface. Eventually, the ripples calm, and if you watch long enough, you will see the silent stillness of the water once again. But the rock will always remain, sitting there, just beneath the surface, changing the foundation of the lake.

And so it is when you experience a loss. Time will take away the ripples. Time will distance you from the event. But time can not change the way it changed you, the way you miss them, the way you wish they were still here every second of every day.

This was my day of heavy grey  Of anticipation of a ten year anniversary. A day where the world gave me the gift of gray to mirror my thoughts. For it is only by my walking through the fog that I can once again return to the sunshine.

“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose them all at once; you lose them in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and their scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in the closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of them that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that they are gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” 
― John IrvingA Prayer for Owen Meany