Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of the death of my father.
He was and will always be a lot of things to me.
He was my hero.
He was the first man I fell in love with and wanted to marry (he informed me he was already taken, but would always love me)
He was the man who understood me, often times better than I understood myself.
He was the person I went to for advice with all sorts of issues - personal and professional.
He was gentle.
He was kind.
He was fair.
He understood people in ways I can only dream, and usually his understanding was within minutes of meeting them.
He was quiet, until he did not want to be.
He a laugh as big as the sky. It was a laugh that make you smile because it was just so full of joy.
He had blue eyes that could be cold when he was in his cop mode, but more often were twinkling with his latest practical joke or love.
His hugs were strong and long.
I miss him. I miss him a lot.
I miss all those things I wrote about. But I just miss his presence in the world. One of the biggest feelings I had those first few weeks after his death was anger and disbelief that the world did not realize what was gone. The world should have stopped, even if only for a day, an hour, to mourn a man who impacted so many people.
There are parts of this past year that I don't even remember. I feel like I have lost time. I was wading through a muddy fog that sucked at my legs and blocked my vision of everything around me. There were times I would get angry with myself because I could not "just get over it". Sometimes I would feel so overwhelmed by the rawness of my emotions that I felt as if someone was pouring salt and sand on blistered feet and forcing me to walk miles without end.
As the year progressed I would forget for a moment what I had lost. I could see a break in the fog. I could laugh and joke. I could sing and play games with the Cubs. And I knew that is what he would want me to do. He would not want me to wallow in grief. He would be angry that I had lost even one precious moment with my Cubs and with Papa Bear. This was the man who always told me "I did not make much money when I was in this world, so you better have a cash bar over my coffin so that you can make some money off me once I am dead". He called his 8 year battle with cancer "just a bump in the road". Those are things that he would want me to remember and cherish.
As 2013 ended and I contemplated this upcoming anniversary and the beginning of a new year I knew I had some choices to make. Before I could make those choices, though, I needed to reflect on what I had learned this past year.
I learned that grief can be so overwhelming that it almost becomes a physical entity.
I learned that there are people who truly love me for me and are willing to sit by my side (physically, in cyber space and on the phone) and pass me tissues as I cry.
I learned I could cry and laugh at the same time.
I learned that no amount of preparation can reduce the pain of loss.
I learned that grief is definitely not a straight path.
I learned to be vulnerable.
I learned there is strength in vulnerability.
I learned that even in the midst of the deepest sadness God is there, waiting with open arms.