A year ago today we buried my dad – the day after Mother’s Day, a holiday that will forever be bittersweet. He was my best friend, my confidant, and unconditional love. My world ended.
For a long time I didn’t think that things would get better, but slowly they did, just like everyone said. It happens when you realize that the pain will never go away – but you learn to live with it. The main sorrow of someone who loses their father young isn’t the agony of knowing that he won’t walk you down the aisle or meet your children, it is knowing that you have a lifetime to face without him. There is a Gloria Naylor quote that tugs on my heart: “Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes.” Right now I’ve gone a year without a hug from my dad, but when I’m 80, it will have been over 50 years – that’s the unbearable part. Because he was my rock, my life – all I knew.
It doesn’t seem like a year has gone by, even the grass is still not green over his resting place. It looks just like a fresh grave, and yet I am a completely different person. And I feel guilty for being a softer person now than the one my dad knew. He deserved a better daughter. But when a friend told me he would want his death to result in some good, I had to agree – or at least take comfort.
I don’t know if he can hear me when I talk to him, but I like to think that he responds through dreams. I had a reoccurring dream right after he died where he told me to start riding horses again. He told me that those were good people – and it would make me happy. I think that saved my life. I came home from a horse show last night and was genuinely happy. I couldn’t stop smiling, which is unfathomable given where I was a year ago. And I think my dad had something to do with it. I went to him with every problem in life and somehow even in death he looked out for me and gave me the answer.
When I was a kid (OK, even at 27), my dad told me every day that I was his princess, I could be whatever I wanted, and he would support me no matter what. That type of unconditional love is rare, especially because he meant it – I was his princess, he believed I could do anything, and he supported me no matter what. I finally understand how special that is and he was, even though I am ashamed to admit that it took this long.
This year has been the toughest of my life, but I’m better for it, because of him.
My life really does come down to one moment – my father’s death.