Today is the five-year anniversary of my father’s death. 1825 days ago I lost him to depression and to suicide and with one phone call, life has never been the same. That’s the sad truth. Today is my darkest day of the year and in fairness, I do not have to celebrate his life today. I celebrate his life on his birthday, on Christmas, on crisp fall days and on days where I feel I may have made him proud.
Today is the day he died and left me and my family and I never got to say goodbye and so no, today I don’t celebrate. I mourn. I am angry. I am sad. I am resentful. I am hopeless. I am desperate. I am the worst of myself. I am all of these things and more and honestly, I am allowed to be.
With each year that passes, I think I’ve tried to explain the levels of grief my family has felt, probably how every family and friend feels with loss, and how with each year, we get more and more looks like, it’s been years, c’mon.
Year One. The first year was rock bottom the worst. I spent much of that year with my face under a bottle and sleeping on the floor. I was angry, I was hateful, I wanted to talk to no one and I wanted everyone in the world to feel bad for me. Everyone. I wanted everyone to feel just awful, like poor girl, she’s the only person on the face of the earth that has ever felt pain. I wanted them to feel like that but I wanted NO ONE to understand me. You don’t know my pain, I’d hiss in my head. You don’t know my heartache, I’d glare with each sympathetic phone call. You don’t know me, you don’t know him, you don’t know pain, you happy, unicorn loving, rainbow filled circus clown. I hate you and the world. That was year one.
Year Two. The year of regret and helplessness. A full year of all the things I could have done differently. A year of being stuck in this purgatory where I wanted to live a life, but how dare I be happy? How dare I get up off the floor or smile or live? A year where you can no longer say, I lost my father THIS year, or even last year, it has to be TWO years ago and no one cares about anyone you lost two years ago. Year two you wish you had a few more people who really did know your pain. Year two the sickness in your stomach is less but the aching in your heart is much worse. Aching is much stronger when there is no shock.
YEAR THREE. No one cares year three. I started to wonder if I cared enough. I spent a good part of the year avoiding caring. Avoiding remembering. I spent the other part of the third year petrified, absolutely anxiety stricken that I would forget one detail. That all of a sudden one day I’d wake up and forget what his face looked like. Forget the sound of his voice, a power of his roar of laughter, the tone of pride, the dash of sarcasm. I wondered when I’d forget what his handwriting looked like and if one day I’d not feel a kick to the gut if I smelled a touch of Irish Spring. I wondered if I’d ever forget the tickle of his beard or the pressure he applied in his massive and consuming hugs.
YEAR FOUR. I finished four stories about him without a nervous breakdown. I cried only 10% of the times I spoke about him. (unless to Katie, which doesn’t count and is not 10%) My memories were always fond and in place of resentment and emptiness, I felt honest and real forgiveness and hope. And peace. I felt more peaceful when I reflected. I didn’t want anyone’s pity and I wanted to help others with loss.
YEAR FIVE. I don’t know what will come of year five. I am a stronger person than I was 1826 days ago and I imagine I’ll only continue to grow stronger. I know that I can’t change the past and I know I can’t control the future and I know that even in the worst of my days in the past five years, I wouldn’t change my past and thinking I could have only wastes the life I have to live.
I do know that I spent 9855 days of my life, 27 years, loving my father and him loving me. I know that we shared more laughs than I can count. I know that I have memories of him that will never fade and that even the unfairness of death can’t take away. I know that my biggest tragedy didn’t defeat me and that after his death is when I really chose to live, unapologetically. I know that I owe him for my strengths and I know that while I may never get another chance to thank him, to show him my love physically, to feel him, to hear his voice, to tell him I miss him myself, I know that he knows. And I know I will be ok.
So. Tomorrow is never promised, and so I believe in these things: Hold the ones you love close and know that you can never love someone too much. You are never the fool for holding a hug too long, calling too many times, making too many memories and sharing too many special moments. And in the end, in tragedy and loss comes hope and strength. And life.
Or at least learning the way to live it.