The Mighty Logo

My First Father’s Day Without My Dad

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

One of my father’s greatest gifts was his ability to love others unconditionally, flaws and all. When I would complain to him about my perception of one’s ignorance, he would always smile and say, “Lisa honey, ignore them. Be happy.”

If you Google “First Father’s Day Without Dad,” you will instantly get inundated with post after post. It’s early June, and I’m feeling the anxiety building up for my first Father’s Day without my dad. I’ve been feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of it. There are no words to describe the heartache I’m feeling and how much I miss my father.

As a little girl I would rush into my parents’ bedroom on Father’s Day morning with my best attempt at serving breakfast in bed screaming, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! My Dad is so rad!” Maybe not the best poem, but, hey, I was a kid. One particular Father’s Day I tripped onto their bed, spilled the entire bowl of Cheerios on both my parents, milk and all. I can still hear my father laughing and thanking me for thinking of him.

You simply cannot escape the Father’s Day madness. The other day I took a massive detour in the grocery store to avoid walking past the overwhelming display of Father’s Day greeting cards. It was bad enough the music they play now makes me cry at the drop of a hat. I refuse to walk past the greeting card aisle until Father’s Day is long gone. As if all that isn’t bad enough, there’s the never-ending Father’s Day advertising.

Buy dad a grill set this Father’s Day!  

Bring home a delicious ice cream cake for dad this Father’s Day!

Take dad out for a big juicy steak this Father’s Day!

Pretty much every single Father’s Day advertisement revolves around food. Way before I began grieving the death of my father, I was grieving the loss of his ability to eat. Our family became quite creative each holiday. We proudly pounded our chests and exclaimed, “We do not need to revolve our holidays around food!” Despite all this, a small piece of me was envious of the endless social media posts proudly displaying other families enjoying a mouth watering Father’s Day meal. I wanted so badly to take my father to a restaurant for his favorite meal and raise a glass to my father on his special day.

My normal routine leading up to Father’s Day would start with me asking him the following, “Dad what do you want this year?” Like many dads he would respond, “You, your sister and your mother are my gifts. Just be happy.” But I would still try to find him the perfect set of pajamas or perhaps something personalized for him — something to remind him just how much I adored him. I would mail him at least three cards. A funny card, a mushy sentimental card and another card because I could never make my mind up.

This year, there will be no search for the perfect gift, no quest for the perfect card, no beating myself up thinking of something non-food related to make my father smile. My father died after a long, valiant battle with Stage IV base of tongue cancer. My only purchase will be some nice flowers and candles to put on his grave.

Just four months ago, I watched my father — the most wonderful man I know — die. First, cancer stole his ability to eat. Slowly, he lost so much weight that you could count his ribs. Then he could no longer use the restroom on his own or get out of bed on his own. During the final days of his life, he was so weak he couldn’t even lift his hand to press the button on the remote control for the television. Eventually, my father’s voice became so gurgly it was a challenge to understand what he was trying to tell us. Bit by bit, cancer ripped my father apart.

Now all I’m left with are a lifetime of beautiful memories that send me into a tailspin of anxiety, depression, endless tears and a broken heart. If you’re reading this and your father is alive, promise me you will hug your father this Father’s Day and take him out to dinner. Promise me — if you were blessed like me — that you will thank your father for a wonderful life.

If you’re like me and have lost a father whom you love and adore, let’s embrace Father’s Day with gratitude and courage. Let’s celebrate our fathers’ memories and courage. Countless individuals walk through life never experiencing unconditional fatherly love. To them, Father’s Day can represent a massive void. There are many who will never know the love of a father. When I think of this, I realize I have been blessed with a magnificent man for a father.

My father has always been my hero — the man who loved me unconditionally and made everything better. Even in death, he continues to show me he’s always there for me. This Father’s Day I will do something to honor my father. Maybe I’ll release balloons, plant a tree, pay it forward. I haven’t decided yet, but I will do something to make my new guardian angel proud and smile.

Happy Father’s Day in heaven, Daddy. I love you more.

Originally published: June 9, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home