^^My dad with his grandchild, Emily.
November will mark four years since my dad's death. Each year, around the end of October, I take a deep breath, clench my fists and do my best to charge through November- as if my own determindedness and impious stubbornness could make the month speed by faster and therefore not allow me any time to feel the pain associated with the anniversary of my dad's death.
It never works. But I still try nonetheless.
The weird thing about losing someone is that it really never stops hurting.
It stops bleeding profusely, yes. It stops throbbing, perhaps. But it doesn't stop hurting. It doesn't hurt every second of every day. No, not at all. Some days go by virtually pain free. Days are busy and full and you don't remember that you lost your dad or that if he were still alive he would have called you to see how your new job is going or that this is his favorite time of year. Some days you don't think about it.
And so a day will go by without hurting. A week. Two weeks, even. But the hurt is still there, hidden in the recesses of my heart and cruelly, it sits, always ready to pounce. And then one day it returns- the unannounced and unwanted remembrance that gosh, I miss my dad.
A sudden longing for my dad came unannounced a few days ago. It was triggered by a dream I had had about him. (FYI... in Spanish they change the preposition that goes along with dream. Instead of dreaming "of" or "about" someone you dream "with" them. In my head now I always think of dreaming this way. Such a prettier way to put it... I dreamed with my dad. As if I weren't alone in my dreaming... as if he were dreaming too, actively involved in the dreaming, doing something with me.)
In the dream my dad was here with my family. I don't know if he was back from the dead or if he had never died or what he was doing living on this earth, quite frankly. He was just here. He gave of each of his eight children a letter that contained his last words to us. Everything important that he wanted us to know was in that letter. They were individualized and full of inside jokes and tender sentiments and all the reasons he loved us. In his letter he called me his favorite nickname, "Bopper" and "child I love so much."
When I woke up I felt almost paralyzed with grief and anger. I was mad that I didn't have a letter, a goodbye, a "I'm leaving you now." What in the world is fair about not saying goodbye to your dad? I sat up in bed, took a deep breath and wondered while I choked back the tears, "Gosh. Will this ever stop hurting?"
I don't know the answer to that question, but after 1400+ dad-less days I suspect that the answer is no, it doesn't ever stop hurting. The hardest part, I decided, about losing my dad at 23 is knowing that my children will live their entire mortal life without knowing him. It is this thought, more than any other, that lingers so painfully. I am wildly jealous of my four oldest siblings who had children before my dad died. Why couldn't I have been older too? Why couldn't I have just one child who will have memories of his "baba"? I try to chase the thought out of my mind, instead imagining my dad and my unborn children hanging out together now, even as I write this. If nothing else, it helps calm my troubled heart.
And so I try to focus on the positive and remember happy memories and thank God for the time I did have and not be a total drag on Greg or my family by holding onto pain that needs to be released. But the fact is I like remembering my dad and I like missing him, however painful it may be. It makes me feel close to him. At this point I suppose it's hard to tell if the pain won't let go of me or if I won't let go of the pain.
These posts I write about my dad are always the toughest ones for me to write. I know they are tough for my family, especially my mom, to read. But I write them for a few reasons. One is purely selfish- it helps me to understand and sort through my feelings of sorrow and mourning. It helps me through the grieving process. Sheesh- the grieving process- who would have thought it would last for four years? (Will it extend four more? And four more after that? Does the grieving process ever end?)
The second reason I write these posts is because I have received a handful of emails from readers who have lost someone close to them and who thank me for posting what I do about my dad. They relate and they thank me for writing something that conveys what they are feeling. I have heard losing a family member compared to joining an exclusive "club" of people who have lost loved ones. Given, it's a terrible club that no one wants to be in. Most people don't even know it exists until they are in it and then they immediately want out. Once you are in, though, the other "I have lost someone I loved very very much" club members are some of the sweetest, most sensitive and caring people out there. They listen to your grief. They cry with you. They never tell you they are running short on time. They share their own grief in hopes that you will feel you're not alone. It's the worst club you could ever recruited into comprised of the best club members imaginable. How's that for paradox?
So I suppose the second reason I write is for those guys. My fellow club members and future club members... with a hope that somehow we all heal together and hurt less and love more and miss less.
Hoping that we let go of the pain.