Today is the fifth anniversary of the day we lost you, Daddy.
It’s hard to wrap my mind around the lifetime that’s somehow fit into five short years.
When I sat in that chilly ICU room, I was 32. I was single – and very much longing for the chance to fall in love and start a family – and living in a 600 square foot Mid-City apartment. I was no stranger to grief; I’d lost grandparents and, very unexpectedly, an uncle. In fact, it had only been six months since I’d said my last hospital bed goodbye to PawPaw.
As I sat by your bedside, listening to the slowing beeps of the machines and knowing you’d only have a few minutes more with us, I took my chance to tell you goodbye. You were in a coma, so the conversation was one-sided. But I know what you would’ve told me. I guess that’s one of the blessings of being close to your parents, always having their voices in your head (whether you want them there or not!). You would’ve told me how much you loved me and how proud you were of me and how I shouldn’t let anything ever hold me back from what I truly want. You would’ve told me that you’d always stay close to me and watch over me. In life, I could count on you for anything, bring you any request for you to help me with. So that day, I tearfully brought one more to your bedside: “I need you to tell God, or whoever it is running things up there, that if He’s going to keep taking good men away from me, I really need Him to send me one.”
I left that room a different person. I left that room with one less parent.
If only I’d known that was just the beginning of the changes I was about to experience.
Those next few weeks of grieving and adjusting to life in a world without one of my biggest supporters are, thankfully, mostly a blur now. There was a lot of crying and very rough patches, but there was also a lot of comfort and kindness. I started regularly seeing a therapist, which has without a doubt been one of the healthiest decisions of my life. It was actually in one of those sessions that I decided to dip my toe back into the dating waters. I was so nervous and unsure I was even ready to put myself out there in the midst of my grief, but it turns out I was ready. I met my now-husband just fifty-seven days after I’d said goodbye to you.
Dating after the loss of a parent is a complicated experience, but I was beyond blessed to be able to learn my way through it with him. When I would break down out of nowhere, he did the most amazing thing: he let me. He let me feel my emotions as they came and although he hates to see me cry, he’d hold my hand for as long as I needed instead of rushing me through it because it was uncomfortable for him. He could sit in the “uncomfortable” with my most vulnerable self, and we became closer for it.
It still feels almost surreal sometimes knowing that I am building a life with a man who never even got to shake your hand.
But I know in my heart you most definitely approve of him. In fact, sometimes it feels like you handpicked him for me. He is my perfect match and worth every second of my days-shy-of-33-year wait.
In January 2018, two and a half years after we met, we were married in the same church where MawMaw and PawPaw were wed. It was a lovely day and hands down one of my happiest, but a part of me had been dreading it from the moment I lost you. There would be no “first look” where seeing me in my gown would bring tears to your eyes. No walk down the aisle to give me away. No daddy-daughter dance at the reception. I was afraid I’d be overcome with grief that day, that your absence during this momentous life event would be more than I could bear. But when the day arrived, it was so full of pure joy, there just wasn’t any room for sadness. And I know that’s exactly how you’d have wanted it. You were so very missed, but I was grateful you “got your way” on that one.
Speaking of you getting your way… we found out at our gender reveal luau in March 2019 that we were expecting a son! After all those years of being in a house full of girls where even the dogs were female, there was finally a boy in the family!
I remember waking up the morning after the party and quietly reflecting on our news, realizing that I’d once asked God to send me one good man – and it turns out, He’d sent me two.
We welcomed your first grandbaby into the world in August 2019 and gave him your first name as his middle one. I look forward to many years of exasperatingly using his full name when he crosses the line. If he’s anything like his Papa Joe, it will be often.
We are living through a global pandemic these days and life is a bit crazy, to say the least. I spend my days in a nice suburban home with the two most important people in my life – two guys who love me but have never had the pleasure of meeting the guy who loved me first. We both make sure your grandson knows about you – that he knows you. We play him your favorite songs and talk about taking him to some of your favorite places once life returns to somewhat normal. That day can’t come soon enough.
Five whole years without you. It just doesn’t seem possible. I experienced my life’s greatest loss before my greatest joys, and that has shaped my life in ways I probably will never fully comprehend. You were such a good man, Daddy, and I was so blessed to have been yours.
Now I’m so blessed to be theirs.