One year ago today I woke up giddy and excited because Jordan and I were finally closing on our new house. It was a long time coming and today was finally the day. I didn’t know that this super exciting day would end with devastation and sleeping on a pallet made in the living room with my family. My family minus one key person.
That morning before I left my parents house to go close on our new house I had peeked into my parents room. My dad hadn’t been feeling well, and honestly I can’t remember why I poked my head in, but there he was sitting there across the room. I asked him how he was doing which he replied with “doing okay, sweetie”. I smiled at him and said “feel better, I love you” and then I left holding onto his “I love you too” not realizing how much I would cherish it. He had been feeling better, and everyone gets sick sometimes. I wished I would have paid more attention. The rest of the day was a blur, we signed on our house and then had movers moving in all our furniture. That’s when I got the call from my mom. I’m not going to go into detail because this isn’t just my story and I want to be respectful of the rest of my family. But, it’s weird to watch your life change in an instant, and life around you not stop. No one knows you’re about to have the worst day of your life. We walked through the hospital halls and there were still people chatting and laughing, couples showing up to bring life into this world. Then there’s you. Walking like a zombie, forgetting to blink and wondering how all these people could be so dang happy.
You never think it’s going to be you. We were the people everyone was watching,and couldn’t help but look at. It’s human nature for people to be curious, but next time you see something possibly tragic happening to a family I ask that you say a prayer for them. It might not be your first thought…to be honest it wasn’t mine until experiencing it myself. That night moved in slow motion. I found myself trying to remember all the last conversations I had with my dad. I tried to think of the last photo we had taken together. Could I remember our last hug? What’s the best way to save our old text messages? I questioned everything, and I prayed. One of the things I found comfort in was the fact that we had gone through so much stress when our first house wasn’t selling. In the moment I realized if our house would have sold sooner we wouldn’t have spent the last month and half living with my family. That was so much extra dad time I will never take for granted. One memory from that month specifically sticks out to me even today. My dad and I were in the kitchen and I either did something or said something and he looked at me and said “you’re so weird” where I then continued to act out one of my favorite scenes from New Girl saying “weird, weird, weird” while making very random movements and facial expressions. His face was priceless, and it burned into my brain. The face of that slight smile…that in my mind was “yep, that’s my daughter” and “she’s so happy”.
The first couple weeks of his absence were a blur, and what I call my phase 1. We continued to sleep as a family on a pallet in the living room because no one wanted to be alone. And I’m talking about a dedicated pallet, like we brought mattresses down, because let’s face it a lot of us are old and can only sleep on the floor for so many days. I found myself wandering around the house a lot just stopping randomly to feel him there with me. At one point I found myself sitting on the floor in front of his chair with my hand on it crying uncontrollably. Everyone handles grief differently, and to be honest I have never been good with death on any level. Even now if someone close to me lost a loved one, I know exactly what they are feeling and what they are going through and I still struggle to get words out. Which is why this post has been compiled over multiple days. Then there’s phase 2: Once the first level of shock wore off we got to that part where you want to remember everything. We looked at every photo we had. I watched countless videos, and still do so I can hear his voice. We told stories to each other that we had either all heard a million times, or ones that siblings had kept to themselves, and were now shared for all of us to cherish. My in-laws had come into town the day after just to be there for my family and do whatever needed to be done. They unpacked almost all of mine and Jordan’s new house. The house that was left lights on boxes everywhere, lunch from that day on the island counter. We were so grateful to them. But, if I’m being honest it took me a long time to go back there. I didn’t want to be anywhere but my parents’ house. I wanted to be with my family, but I also had zero interest in sleeping in a house my dad would never walk in with us living there.
Phase 3: I returned to work a little over two weeks after we lost my dad and I still wasn’t myself. Some say the best thing to do is fill your time, and in some ways I agree. In others I realized I also needed that down/alone time still. Everyday was the same. Everyday I cried all the way to work as I replayed my last moments with my dad in my head, or I thought about all the future he wouldn’t be physically here for. Then I would get to work and would have things to keep my mind busy, get my body and brain back into a working state. Coworkers would tell me they are so sorry for my loss, and I know they mean it. I would always answer with a “thank you”, they then just stare because they don’t know what to say which then would make me get teary eyed, which made them uncomfortable which then made me feel bad for making them feel uncomfortable. Basically just a vicious cycle. Then it was time to go back home where I again would cry the whole way back. I think those times were important though. I clearly still had emotions I hadn’t processed and needed to get out.
Phase 4: This was a struggle for me, and I would say it was about 2-3 months later. It’s when the world doesn’t think about what happened anymore. It’s far enough removed that it’s not what they think of when they see you. Which I have to say was probably the hardest season to get through. Because to me it’s still never ending, it’s still fresh and just happened. Shoot, it’s been a whole year and it’s still fresh and still just happened. But, it was another thing my family and I pushed through together and used each other to lean on.
For those who know my family, well they know we are different kind of bread. So incredibly close that it’s honestly hard to explain. We have my dad and my mom to thank for that. And I am so thankful for how they taught us to be a family because that’s the only reason we have all made it as far as we have through this. Leaning on one another, taking turns being the strong one so the other didn’t need to be. I am so incredibly grateful for a mom that is truly the most incredible woman I know. Each of my brothers, who are so different and I cherish each of them for the individual amazingness they bring to our family. And my sister who is the most kind hearted, hilarious person and best cook in the house. I am also so incredibly grateful for my husband. The one who was the strong one the whole time. Not just for me but everyone in my family. The one who stepped up and did everything when none of us wanted to move. He made phone calls, filled out paperwork, did anything and everything around the house. He is truly the best husband in the world and I know my entire family is so grateful he was there for us during that time. And I’m so blessed for him to be my rock everyday after, even when I can’t express well that I’m having a bad day.
I don’t think this is really helpful for anyone. I have no great advice on getting through something tragic, I guess my only real point is everyone is different. Everyone feels different, everyone expresses themselves differently, and they’re all right. There isn’t a wrong way to get through something traumatic. In most ways I wrote this for me. Something for me to put my mind to and get my thoughts down on everything that happened and work through the pain I still feel. But, I share it because I know there are more people out there that question themselves like I did. Is it normal to feel like this? Is it normal to want to do this, or not want to do this anymore. So this was my story, my normal.
I love you Daddy, and I can’t wait to tell my son all about you and the crazy life you lived. Thank you for being all of our biggest cheerleader. Thank you for pushing me and being hard on me even though I acted up because I didn’t understand. Thank you for always being so honest about your life and growing up. I can’t wait to tell our sweet boy all your crazy stories, because I want him to know exactly who you are and where a piece of him comes from. And knowing the two of us it’s the hardheaded-ness that will be most likely from both of us combined. I love you forever. Until we meet again.