Grief isn’t what I imagined it would be.
I knew I’d miss you, but missing someone and grieving for someone who is gone forever are two different things. I more than miss you; I’ve had moments where I am momentarily incapacitated by the knowledge that I will never be with you again in this life, not even one more time.
I’ve still got your number in my phone. I’ve still got voice messages that date back several years. But those are only echoes, ghosts of a past that I share with you, haunting the present. The future is filled with watching my daughters grow, fulfilling their dreams, maybe chasing a few more of my own, but there is a gaping hole in what lies ahead, because you don’t get to be part of it.
This year of grief hasn’t been enough time for me to get over the loss of you. But in that time, I’ve realized that I never will. And I don’t have to. Maybe it will feel more real when I don’t look the same as I did when you were here, when my daughters are grown and the only photos they have with you are of them as children.
But when everyone else has moved on, ceased to call, stopped going to the grave, I’ll still be here without you. Because to me, this isn’t just another death to cancer, one that was expected. It was the death of my dad. And even though I’m no longer a child, I’m still your child, and this hurt, this grief, is mine, and the love you gave me for thirty-eight years has to sustain me for the next thirty-eight, fifty, or however long I live without you.
Twelve months hasn’t been long enough to settle into this new reality, the one where you exist on a plane that is out of reach. It’s still incomprehensible that you won’t call me ten times in one day just to ask about Lily and Aislin, or that I can’t come and sit with you in your favorite room—that was hotter than hell because of the fires you liked to build in the stove—and laugh as you tell me your stories that were always embellished to the very edge of believability.
I have tried for 366 days—because 2020 is bad enough, it had to be a leap year—to write out this grief, to find the words to heal this wound. To come to terms with telling you that it was okay to go, that I’d be okay, to watch you take that last breath and try to reconcile my memories of you living with the one of you dying. I’ve tried to share glimpses of the life you lived, wishing you alone could read these vignettes of memory.
Maybe I will always be chasing the right words to heal. Or maybe they’ll continue to fall onto pages seen and unseen, in this space, or in my heart. But for now, Dad, I’m sorry I don’t have the right words. And maybe it’s best that I never find them, because there really is no getting over losing you. And maybe it’s okay if I refuse to believe that you’re really gone, and I can just continue to hold on and know that you’ve moved on.
And I’ll see you again on the other side.
Until then, I will live well, give my daughters a life that, when I pass, they will look back on with as much grief-love—because that is what grief is, love for someone who has passed on—as I do with you.