Losing A Parent to Cancer: It’s Been 11 Months

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This is such a strange time for all of us. We’re approaching one year since we said goodbye to my dad, yet I would call you a liar if you said it wasn’t only last week.

I have to admit.. one of the most beautiful things a person can say to someone like me in my situation, is to agree that hardly any time has passed at all. That in fact, eleven months since losing your parent may as well have been yesterday.  It’s comforting. Like a warm, tight hug. You’re telling me that there is no timeline to this stuff.  That just because a year is on the horizon, this doesn’t mean that I’m expected to pick up all of the pieces and have it all figured out. Which is great, because I don’t. I’m still a mess.

It’s so interesting – all of the things we’re going through. Denial still creeps in from time to time. I still refuse to erase his name from my phone, even if that means pain will strike when I accidentally go into my “favorites” on my iPhone and click his name, or when I add him to a group text, just like I always used to. I still refuse to wash any of the clothing that my mom handed down to me, for fear that I’m washing him away with it.  I still ache when I go to our home in Chicago and see so much memorabilia that he collected over the years from the people that he loved, and all of the things he found worthy of treasuring. I still burry my nose in the clothes that hang in his closet, grasping for the scent of him. I still choose his pajamas over my own when I spend the night. I still want to fall straight to my knees when I walk into our Florida home, the place we last saw him. It feels like my chest closes in and I can’t breathe. And while it hasn’t gotten any easier, like some people say, you find a way to deal with the explosion of emotions going on inside of you. You internalize it, or you don’t. It’s just like that.  I chose to handle my re-entry of the Florida home earlier this month simply by saying to my mom, “I am so heavy hearted.”  For me, that was enough to make my emotions real and valid. Even though my entire body wanted to collapse to the floor and sob, I chose to internalize. This may not happen come December 17th, when my family gets together to celebrate his life, and that’s okay.

Speaking of memorabilia – this photo. This photo was found by my mom when she was going through our storage room that holds all of our family photos (thousands and thousands of them) It’s of my dad and two of his friends from the army.  I love it so much, and it makes me wish I would have asked him to tell me more stories from his time in Germany while he was alive. But we’re slowly discovering papers and little things that unveil his experience little by little. He had letters written to his parents for his excellent good standing as a soldier, commending him for his duty and hard work. The letters told his parents that they ought to be very proud of him.. and I hope they were. I hope they gave him the praise he deserved. Medals and little photos such as this one were found, too. I wonder who these people are? Where do they live? Are they still alive? Do they remember my dad? What was he like at that age? Things like this make my mind wander, and make me desperate to talk to every single person in depth who had the honor of knowing my dad.. to hear their stories and commit them to memory.

Eleven months. Eleven months of crying, aching and sadness. Eleven months of laughing at home videos, smiling when something reminds me of him, celebrating a full-lived life, cherishing my 28 years of memories with the greatest father, and realizing all of the little qualities in myself that make me so much like him. Eleven months marks a journey that I’ll continue on for the rest of my life – proving to myself that if I can endure this.. the biggest heartbreak of my life, then I can endure anything.  #forevermissingyou

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