To my dear sweet Neala, and the little boy growing inside me,
(sorry Bubby, your parents haven’t decided on a name for you yet)
My daddy died on a Friday night. It’s been five Fridays since he passed. Pretty sure I speak for most of my immediate family when I say the past five Fridays have been pretty crummy.
It’s not like I sit around every Friday crying and feeling awful. More like a little grey cloud who tries to follow me around, popping up at random times throughout the day reminding me it’s Friday.
Why couldn’t he have left us on a Monday? Mondays are already awful, so it only makes sense. Friday used to be a happy day for me. It was the start of the weekend. Now it’s the day we began our “new normal”. The day we started living without him. I’ve heard, and I’m hoping, this gets better with time. Surely I won’t always feel such animosity towards Friday?
A dear friend, Chris, came over a few weeks ago to fix our gas fireplace. Daddy had looked at it months ago, and was able to get the pilot light going, but wasn’t quite sure why it wouldn’t do anything else. As soon as Chris got it working and the flames popped up, I grabbed my phone. “Oh my goodness! I’m going to take a picture and send it to daddy. He’ll be so happy you got it working.”
Only half way through I realized what I was saying and burst into tears.
No. I’m not going to send him a picture.
Because he’s not here anymore.
One Saturday we were going to visit my mother. My husband James was helping me pack Neala’s bag and get her coat on. He said, “Are you ready to go to JoJo and PawPaw”s house?” As soon as he said it his face turned serious and he apologized.
“It’s ok”, I said. “Old habits die hard.”
The other night I was driving home and looked up at the sky. The moon was nearly full and I could only see one star in the sky. It shone so brilliantly, it almost put the moon to shame. I burst into tears, knowing daddy would’ve loved seeing the sky like this. The moon has never made me cry before. I guess there really is a first time for everything.
Many people have told me, “He’s in a better place.” While I appreciate their attempt to encourage me, I want to scream. I’m talking throw an all out fit. Maybe even throw a few fragile items.
I want to yell, “I DON’T WANT HIM IN A BETTER PLACE! I want him walking around in his fuzzy blue robe. I want him taking a nap on my couch every Sunday afternoon. I want him to call me just to tell me he loves me. I want him HERE WITH ME.”
But that’s pretty selfish isn’t it? Because he really is in a better place.
The last few years were rough for him. His body was losing strength with every surgery, every procedure, and every dose of chemo. It’s selfish to want someone you love to stay in a place of indefinite pain.
When I feel sad and the ache is almost unbearable, I remind myself of his last breath. I know, this might sound a little weird for you. But stay with me…
The hospice nurse told us it was the end. His heart had stopped and he was taking his final breaths. I watched my father’s small, frail body exhale a small puff of air. I’m not even certain we can call it a breath.
More like a tiny little whisper, saying goodbye to life on this earth. In that moment all I could picture was my father as a younger man, inhaling the largest, fullest breath of heaven. I surprised myself when I clapped my hands and said, “Daddy is in heaven!”
In that moment. In that second. In that blink of time, my father pushed out cancer. He pushed out pain. He pushed out surgeries and chemo and radiation. He pushed out weakness and sadness, nausea and fatigue, and all the crap that accompanies cancer.
And he breathed in heaven. Life and wholeness. He breathed in fresh, eternal air.
When I feel sad, I remind myself he isn’t.
When my heart aches, I remind myself his doesn’t.
Neala, you will not remember the time you spent with PawPaw.
Bubby, you never met your PawPaw.
But you will both know him. You will see his pictures and hear his stories. Your lives will be full of memories we will share. Your lives will be richer because part of him will be inside you.