My post today is going to be a little different than usual and far more personal. I know that it’s “wellness Wednesday,” but this post does relate to that theme because writing is the only outlet that can help me process my thoughts and emotions. Mental health is an often neglected component of overall wellness, but it’s very important to me. I warn you that it’s quite long and is more for me and Grams than anyone else. As always though, if my grief journey can help someone else on theirs, then I will share my thoughts.
I have written about losing my dad in the past and it remains one of my personal favourite posts to this day. Today is the second year “anniversary” of losing him and as much as I told myself that a milestone like this doesn’t matter, this letter kept writing itself in my head. I would be on the elliptical and composing paragraphs and cooking dinner with tears in my eyes until I finally gave in and wrote it.
I am going out for lunch with Grams today to a quirky little restaurant in our local city. Last year, we spent the first “anniversary” weekend away in Ottawa where we explored the city and spent a lot of time talking. I consider these activities an acknowledgement of how much my dad meant to both of us and a way that we don’t have to be alone on such a challenging day.
It’s been 2 years to the day since you passed. I can’t say that things have gotten any easier, but they have become different. The loss of you was a shock to my system and it felt as though I had a gaping hole in my body. The hole is still there, but instead of a searing pain, it’s an acute one. There are times when I both randomly and intentionally cry because growing up without you is painful and unfair.
There are many times when I’ve asked Mom, “what do you think Dad would say?” and we do our best to figure it out. It’s not the same though, Dad, as your calm, thoughtful, and caring approach to every situation. It will never be the same and Mom and I are trying to get used to our new normal. It’s heartbreaking that has to mean life without you.
I’m very different now than when I last got to spend time with you, Dad. I was 27 back then and it feels like ages ago, an entirely alternate life. There are a lot of things that I would go back and do differently, but the problem with experience is that you have to go through it in order to learn the lessons from it.
I have become a total country girl. That’s right, no more rap and hip hop music. I will never forget when I insisted we listen to one of my rap CDs in your van and you did an impression of my “ridiculous” music that you hated listening to (but did anyway). Physically and emotionally, my body needs the country. From the chaos of your illness and what it did to my spirit, I sought peace and tranquility and that’s where I found it.
The first house that I bought, which you worked so hard to make into a home for me, had a tree in the yard that you loved. One of the first things I want to do at the cottage is plant one just like it and put a plaque on it so that you can be there with us. People ask me how I was able to buy three properties before the age of 30 and my answer is always the same: because of my Dad.
That’s my answer for a lot of things in my life. You taught me to be practical, frugal, savvy, and kind and I still adhere to the lessons that I learned from you. I am also lucky enough to be married to a man just like you and, in so many ways, my marriage mimics yours, which I am very proud of. JP is my peace, my sanity, and my rock, just like you were to Mom.
When I was a little girl and people asked who I wanted to marry, I always said, “my dad.” I didn’t understand what it meant to be married, but I did understand that it would mean we would always be together. In a way, I did get to marry you through JP. I have always strived to make you proud and that will never change.
I wanted to do first look pictures with both my husband-to-be and my dad on my wedding day. You featured so heavily into my vision for that very special day and while the focus would be on me and JP, it was also supposed to be meaningful for our relationship. Most of my friends are married, which I’m grateful for because I can’t watch fathers walk daughters down the aisle and I can’t watch father/daughter dances.
I never imagined losing the chance to share those experiences with you, but so many things in life are not certain even when we desperately need them to be. I am not sure if that pain will ever fade or if I will still be crying when my own daughter gets married and shares those moments with JP. By then, I hope that I can watch my daughter’s happiness, think of happy memories with you, and smile through my tears.
When you were still here, I remember receiving an email from you in the middle of the night. I can picture you downstairs with Mom’s tablet, contemplating what your illness and eventual death would mean for us. At that time, you knew it was coming, but Mom and I were still vehemently denying it because we just couldn’t live with the knowledge that we were going to lose you.
When I read your email, I cried and cried because all you wanted was to ensure that Mom would be okay without you. Others in your situation would sob, rage, and beg for more time, but you never did any of that. You simply accepted your reality and wanted to do what you could to spare us from feeling any pain. The depth of your selflessness brings me to tears.
I know that you were worried about the weight that I gained. I wasn’t thinking about self-care when you were sick, but I am now. I’m making a lot of progress and doing my best to live a healthy lifestyle. You would be so happy to know that Mom is doing it, too. You also used to worry about the toxins in household products and you fretted that using chemical cleaners would cause cancer, which is another legacy you left me.
It’s painfully ironic that you ended up getting that awful disease, which far too many people do. But, Dad, it wasn’t in vain. I make all my own products now and your grandchildren will not eat off dishes that have been cleaned with chemicals or have their bodies washed in chemicals. That’s because of you and I will certainly be telling them all about you.
It makes me sad that you never got to see B being a wonderfully behaved boy. When you knew him, he was poorly trained and jumped all over everyone. JP and I have worked hard to fix that and you’d love your little grandpup now. You always used to buy pet friendly salt for your house in the winter even though you didn’t have a dog. When I asked why you did that, you said, “because other people do.” And that was you, Dad, to a T.
I remember having my spinal surgery as though it were yesterday. Mom always tells me that you were crying more than she was because you were so worried about me. I have a lot of health challenges at the moment and sometimes I feel like that scared little girl in the hospital again who was begging to stay with her Dad while they wheeled her away to surgery. Sometimes, you just need your dad.
We meant the world to each other and had such a special relationship. I’m going to get through all my health issues and go on to accomplish so much in my life that I wish you could see. I have to settle for knowing that you would be pleased with the things that I’m doing and how I’m choosing to live my life. It’s all that’s left.
I have gotten my faith back since you passed, but so many things about God and spirituality are still a mystery. Mom believes in her heart that you can still see us and I am not sure exactly what I believe. There are some things the living will simply never know for sure. What I do know is that I will live my life as though you are watching and try to emulate your kind spirit as much as I can.
I will always be a Daddy’s girl and I will always be proud to be your daughter. I’m a better person because of you and I love you.