I couldn’t sleep the other night. I tossed and turned all night, unsure why I felt so uneasy and unsettled. Something was off and I couldn’t put my finger on it until I looked at my photo archives and it validated what I wondered. One year ago was the last day I saw my dad before his stroke.

Somehow my heart knew what my head had forgotten.

My father stopped by my house that day in January to show me something. He was so excited. He told me he found a “beautiful jewelry keeper” at Target in the bargain bins and wanted to buy 8 of them for our college box-moms to send to our daughters. I couldn’t stop laughing and told him it was a juicer, not a jewelry keeper. He argued with me… “Then it’s a two in one. A juicer AND a jewelry holder. What’s better than that?!”.

Fitting that our last memory before his body failed him was one where he made me laugh until my stomach hurt. So on brand with who he was.

Forever the jokester. Forever finding a bargain. Forever thinking about his grandkids. Forever arguing then winking at me. Forever my guy.

Ouch. Some days are just harder than others.

Grief is sneaky. It creeps up on you. It randomly pops up when you feel like you’re cruising along. It makes you feel broken and disconnected. It’s like the ocean- ebbing and flowing, sometimes calm and sometimes overwhelming.

What I’ve learned over the last year is that the waves never stop coming, but somehow you learn to survive them. You learn to ride them out, bracing for some and leaning into others. You learn that with time they become further apart and with less intensity. In the beginning all you do is hang on, but slowly you begin to swim. Little strokes. Slow strokes. Anything to just move.

Some say grief is process that takes time. I disagree. It’s not a process, it is a lifelong journey that navigates us through our losses. It has layers of hurt, sadness, disappointment, memories, aches, love and eventually healing.

Instead of seeing myself as broken as I travel this path of life, I now see myself in a constant state of healing. A perpetual journey inwards that allows me to hold on to my father in a manner that keeps him close to me in the most peaceful and gentle way. I used to feel like some part of me was gone-fractured off- afraid it would never come back. Afraid that what I lost would never return to me.

Now… I realize that I am whole again, just never the same. Grief is change. It changes our life, our routine, our dreams, our plans, and us. It changes us forever.

My father is gone and never coming back… a most painful idea to accept. There were days when I desperately wanted to talk to him, “just one more time” I would beg the universe. There were days when I put on his sweatshirt, just so I could smell his Old Spice. There were days when I watched videos of him, dancing and being silly, just so I could laugh. And while those things will never bring him back, I don’t look for him the same way I did in the beginning.

I no longer search because I know right where he is. Deep in my heart. Deep in my children’s eyes. Deep in my fibers. Deep in my memories.

He lives deep within me.

My pain and my grief for my dad aches deep in my bones. But so does my love. They reside together. Love and grief, two sides of the same precious coin. Two profound emotions, depending on how you look it. Just like the two-in-one juicer/jewelry holder my dad tried to convince me was so great. Together but different.

What’s better than that?!



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