When I was younger, I would make Father’s Day cards. I made you a bookmark once with my picture proudly displayed on the front and a huge string pompom hanging lavishly down the side. I carefully selected colors, inscribed loving messages down the front while the rest was tied together with pieces of string and glue. I knew you wouldn’t use it but I also knew you would appreciate the thought – and the truth is, I think about you a lot.
I consider it stolen time.
I was only eleven when you passed and even younger when you told me. I watched as your mouth moved, but I didn’t listen until the words reluctantly, and then seemingly all at once, came tumbling out of your mouth. You had been diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t understand the permanency of forever nor the severity of your words. My fears and questions, large and daunting, still race around an endless track in my mind. I was so young, and partly by choice, I was naïve to your illness, so much so that I couldn’t have anticipated the reality of what was happening or what was to come.
My memories are ragged around the edges, fragments of bigger pictures I’ve reminisced. But recently, I’ve found myself grasping onto them with every fiber of my being.
I went searching for you in everything – in movies, old shirts, scraps of paper with your handwriting, and missing birthday cards. I’d e-mail you, replay silly videos from our hike that you recorded on a tiny flip phone. I’d listen to your rumbling laugh as you howled at your own jokes, but I almost can’t remember past a time when you weren’t sick or struggling.
I watched you endure chemotherapy; overflowing with the toxic chemicals that ran through your veins, your body stressed beyond its limits with yellowed skin and tired eyes. I waited on Christmas Day when you came home with hollowed cheeks and staples down your neck. I watched as you got better, and then relapsed again. I passed you syringes as you fed them into your feeding tube. I watched you fight in a body that was no longer your own, and I know you fought not for yourself, but for us.
You were not without your faults, and there are memories that I wish didn’t occupy so much space in my mind because I feel as though they tarnish your name and cloud the image of how I’d like to remember you. You had nothing but good intentions, but you were also enslaved by your own anger and despair that it was hard for you to see past it. Your behavior was often self-destructive and for a while, it was all you knew. You wanted more for your children and urged us to learn from your mistakes.
In spite of this, I was a daddy’s girl. Always bidding for your attention, reaching for your hand. I stayed up late to spend time with you, I cringed through the horror movies you so enjoyed and I hung on your every word because I knew you would have given me the world if you could. I saw you as a force of nature, indestructible – until you encountered and lost your battle to cancer.
Recently it hit me again, that you’re really gone and that there are things I’ll never be able to tell you directly or hear you say. There are moments we will never share and memories you won’t be a part of. You’re gone and we’ve done our best to fill the gaps of your absence, the missing pieces. Our time together feels so unfinished and I’m haunted by more what-ifs than I care to express. I wasn’t prepared for what I lost, and more often than not, I find myself holding back tears.
Yet putting it into real words is what you wholeheartedly deserve. A tribute to you, for everything I didn’t say and couldn’t understand. I’m sorry I didn’t really understand what you were going through, I’m sorry I didn’t go with you when you asked, and I’m sorry I didn’t visit that night. I know you watched me struggle the past few years, again, I’m sorry.
As impossibly enduring as your passing was, I said I wouldn’t let it define me – I’m grateful that it has.
Your illness may have taken you from me, but it also gave me perspective and something to fight for. Over the past 10 years, I have done my best to honor your name and make you proud. Through your illness, you taught me to have eyes for more than myself, how to care for others and empathize with their struggles. In your passing, I learned resiliency and as time went on, I learned to stand up to things bigger than myself. With every feat I face, you are the voice inside my head telling me to stay. You are what inspires me to be overly ambitious because you have given me more than I think you may have realized.
Missing you is permanent. Loving you is forever.
The majority of the people in my life now have never met you, they only know you by the impression you’ve made on my life. It was you that taught me the value of life and to appreciate time while I have it. You are what grounds me time and time again, reminding me I have so much to do and so much to achieve, to become. You mean more to me than I knew how to express in Father’s Day card. You are in everything I do, behind every choice I make. My life is not my own, it is ours.
I’ll see you in the stars,
Forever your daughter
Featured Image via pexels.