It has been four years since my father passed away. Over the past four years, I’ve shared the lessons I’ve learned from this experience to help others prepare for and cope with the grief that follows death. This year, I wondered what insight I could share that I haven’t already, or that’s worth repeating. I’m not sure much changes now. There’s a lot of missing–times when loss feels especially sad. Photos remain difficult to see. The paradox of the void and gratitude endures.
I still think of my father often. I can see him holding me on his shoulders in Central Park, tucking me into bed at night, and throwing a ball to me. I can see him crying at his aunt’s funeral, cheering for me at my little league game, and driving me to get school supplies after a long day of work. I can see him grocery shopping for me, teaching me how to ride a bike and drive a car, taking me to college, and helping me with my resume. I can see him smiling as my dog jumps all over him and kisses his face. I can still hear him saying, “How’s my #1 son?” I can see him listening, laughing at my jokes, reading my articles, teaching me life lessons, and caring more than anyone I knew. I can see the last time I saw him and the last time I heard his voice. I can see myself crying for days.
I miss my father’s laugh, listening skills, and advice. I miss sharing our lives. I miss supporting him in his time of need. I miss talking about politics and work. I miss his hugs. I miss being with someone who taught me so many lessons and comforted me so many times. And I miss having a father. That missing doesn’t end.
I suppose my enduring advice would be to appreciate the time you have with the people you love because one day, you will only see them in your memories. Tragedy doesn’t always knock. I was laughing with my father and planning our lives together, and then he was gone. To be given the personal belongings of someone you love is a crushing experience. The finality of death is painful, and I don’t know that anything can prepare us for its permanence. When it’s over, it’s over. Whatever was left unsaid is left unsaid forever. Not until someone is gone do we truly understand how that feels.
Most of me died the day I lost my father. But four years after death, I’m reminded that love never ends.