It has been over ten years since I received that phone call In November. I was on my way into work and thought I would have enough time to tell my boss I was leaving to head to the hospital. I didn’t even pass two exits off of the thruway before I received another phone call that he was dead and his body was already transferred to the funeral home where he would be cremated. The last time I would see him would be on a cold, silver gurney where all that covered him was a thin, white sheet.
I remember it was cold. He was cold. I caressed his face and laid my head on his chest as he lay there lifeless. I just remember sobbing as I told him how much I loved him and told him he could now be at peace. Where there was no more pain, sorrow, disappointment, anger, loss, rejection or hiding. I wanted him to hold me. I would have given anything for him to wake up so that I could have heard he loved me and was proud one last time. I wanted to tell him that he was always enough; flaws and all. I wanted him to know that I saw him for who he tried to be and that I was proud to be his daughter.
I can share all of the reasons why life didn’t hand him a fair deal of cards, but his story will forever remain his to tell. What I can share is the extraordinary ways that he continues to impact me. We shared the same set of eyes and our love of capturing every detail in everything we do. We shared a fear of being alone and an intense sensitivity to everything raw. Of all the things we shared, it was the need to be accepted for who we are when we are brave enough to come out of hiding.
Like many of us, he suffered silently. His wounds were wrapped in shame, abandonment, rejection and loss. It doesn’t really matter where pain stems from in any of us. It’s meant to connect us, not separate us. Suffering shouldn’t be solitary confinement; yet so many people are sent there. So many people see flaws as a weakness, a burden or treat it as contagious. It’s what we all have, but don’t dare speak of because we’re afraid.
He didn’t think he was worthy so he found refuge in retreating from life and sabotaging the belief that he was loved. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish he would call me. There are moments when I look into his grandson’s blue eyes and think of the 4 year old boy he was who wasn’t loved responsibly by his own parents. When I hear a particular song, pass a motorcycle, highlight my to-do list and even when I look at the three grandchildren he never got to meet, I grieve him. I even grieve the times I am listening for him or trying to feel his spirit, but can’t. I grieve the legacy he worked hard to build, but never got to experience. I wonder if he’s at peace just as I wonder if he’s proud of the professional, wife, mother and woman he never got to know.
They say that the relationship between a father and his daughter is a life-altering one. For me, it continues to be one of the most tragic losses of my life. As I sit here and remember that dreadful phone call, I can’t help but think about my own struggle with depression. I empathize with his suffering because I know what that emptiness feels like just as I know what those hollow whispers tell us. Every good parent wants and hopes that their children will feel loved and accepted. For me that value is particularly important because of that little boy in him. I want to stand comfortably in the truth of who I am and believe I am worthy of receiving what I fear does not exist for me. Don’t we all?
I still listen for him. Sometimes I call out to him when I’m driving by myself. Every year I try to make it to his favorite spot. I sit there and stare at the waves he loved to swim and talk to him. I tell him that I’ll continue to fight, because it turns out being flawed doesn’t repel love and connection after all. Most importantly, I tell him that he’s forever a part of me and I’m proud.
I love you dad.
In love & truth,