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A Letter to My Father One Year After His Death

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Dear Dad,

It’s been one year and one month since you’re gone. According to Google that’s 9490.01 hours, but to me it feels like an eternity. I still wake up in the morning thinking it’s a nightmare and you’re not really gone. At night I look at the sky and make a wish on the brightest star I see, believing it is you.

When I was young, you told me we grieve for ourselves because the deceased are in a better place. As a grown woman, I know that is true, but I still miss you terribly. For seven years I watched you endure horrific pain. I prayed and pleaded with God to heal you. Towards the end of your life, I was angry my prayers were not answered.

When you died, my grief became so overwhelming and suffocating that on numerous occasions, I was convinced I was dying, too. My heart was so heavy and the pain was unbearable. You played a major role in my life, and now you’re gone. For my entire existence we spoke every single day, even when I was away in college. That’s 40 years of saying, “I love you,” 40 years of being a Daddy’s girl, 40 years of feeling safe, 40 years of pure, unconditional love. And now you’re gone.

I wonder, will I ever smile again?

I watched Mom selflessly care for you throughout your marriage, but with extra care the past seven years. It was not uncommon for you to shout to the doctors that you were alive because of Mom. As your health began to fail, Mom was the one breathing life into you each day. I will never forget how your eyes lit up with joy when Mom entered the room. You and Mom showed me what true, unconditional love looks like. Watching Mom mourn you is unbearable; there are times I’m certain I can hear the sounds of her heart breaking. Hearing the gut-wrenching sounds of Mom mourn you is a heartbreaking, agonizing experience.

How do I comfort someone mourning their soulmate when I don’t even know how to comfort myself?

The people who I thought would be my anchors quickly became the holes in my lifeboat. I felt complete, utter disappointment. Our family desperately needed kindness, love and support — anything else seemed cruel and unwelcome. Taking a page out of your book, I chose to break ties and ignore. One of the greatest lessons you taught me is to quiet a fool with silence. Unfortunately, death can bring out quite a few fools.

But you prepared me for this.

From teaching me how to walk, to throw a ball, even to dance while standing on top of your feet — you showed me ways to stand on my own two feet. A dad’s job is not only to protect his little girl, but also to show her how to defend herself when, one day, he is not around.

You were the biggest influence in my life.

A father is the one who guides his daughter through life, and now even in death you’re guiding me. You’re constantly showing me that love never dies. You speak to me through feathers and music, and if I listen closely, I can still hear your sweet voice.

Your death has been a mysterious doorway with so much painful grieving for me. A heartache I never knew was possible, and a mystery because I never know how or when that door is going to open and pull me in. It’s been a full year and one month since your death, but you’re still opening that door, comforting me. Sometimes it is gut-wrenching pain, like the other day when Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” came on in the store and I felt a faint brush on my cheek. I knew it was you, and I sobbed in the middle of Stop and Shop. Or when I’m driving to work in the morning and I can smell you, and for a moment, I can feel you sitting next to me in the car. Or when a beautiful fluffy white feather crosses my path, and I smile because I know it’s you sending me love from above. Since you have passed, I have found enough feathers to build my own angel wings and visit you in heaven.

I miss you.

I miss you even more today than one year and one month ago because it’s been 13 months since I heard your voice, heard your laugh, told you I love you and held your hand. There is so much of you in me that I think I frighten Mom sometimes. I have your sense of humor and share your love for life. Mom is always telling me I have your eyes and heart. You loved people and a good party. Since you have gone, I have received endless photos, emails and texts telling me what a great man you were. I established a fund in your name where all monies go to the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders. I desperately want to help the countless individuals living with a swallowing disorder, people like you, and families like ours who felt so isolated. Last weekend I hosted my first fundraiser. Dad, 52 people, some whom you never met, came out to celebrate you and to help raise awareness. Your passing has created another level of a new beautiful community.

Dad, you taught me what heroes are made of.

You taught me how to love life even when it’s terrifying and difficult and you know it’s going to be painful. As I sat and held your hand throughout my life, and the past seven years of your pain and suffering, I saw an incredible person, my hero.

I learned how precious life is.

As I remember you one year and one month after your passing, the painful image of my very sick, frail father is fading. I will always carry your pain and suffering in my heart, but I can also see my father, my superhero, the strongest man in the world. The man who raised me, the man who was my first love and my best friend. The man who gave me butterfly kisses, taught me how to drive, how to dance while standing on top of his feet and how to appreciate doo-wop music. These days I count how long you have been gone in milestones, and most recently I am engaged. I now wonder how I will survive my wedding day without you by my side, smiling and laughing. Even though I can no longer hear your voice, I still see your face, and I can feel your love. You’re still with me, in my laughter, my smile, my tears and in my writing.

Love never dies; it simply evolves.

Love always,

Follow this journey on Love is Infinite.

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Originally published: March 3, 2017
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