Well I don’t know how it’s been another year already, but it can still cut like a knife. Five years ago today was the last spent with my dad. He was suffering the effects of end-stage lung cancer and I remember every detail of that day and night like it was yesterday.
Those of you who’ve been reading for a while know the story, but if you are a new reader, here’s last year’s summation.
I’ve continued to struggle on my journey to wellness, hit some walls that didn’t necessarily make sense to me. In a session with my all-knowing health coach, she shared with me that, although I’ve made great strides, she still sensed an underlying sadness, which left unaddressed would continue to come back again and again. Well it didn’t even take a moment for me to pinpoint what that could be and I proceeded to open the floodgates wide. Everything spilled out. See, I’ve spent five years convincing everyone (including myself), that I was fine, strong, okay. But inside I was not.
Does that hurt ever go away?
She recommended something so simple, I might have laughed…had I not been blubbering. But it made sense and I was ready to try anything to ease the hurt. So I did.
One afternoon, recently, I drove out to a place our family shared many fond memories. A place I continue to feel my dad strongly. It was a gorgeous autumn day. I sat myself down, drank in the sunshine and allowed my mind to recall anything at all it wanted to. And I began to journal. I hadn’t realized how sad I was that memories had started to fade, but in that place, it all came back. I couldn’t seem to write fast enough to get it all down. It simply poured out. And the tears did too.
I’ve been encouraged recently to let it all spill out. We’ve been taught to stuff it down, to be strong. At a young age we’re told to stop crying, right? But it’s in stifling that stuff that we do more harm than good. So I didn’t try to stop it.
It wasn’t nearly as painful as I’d expected. And when hours had passed and I had to head home, I was astounded at what I had recollected and recorded. What really hit me was a valuable realization. It was right there before me, yet it never registered until now.
My dad lived six years following his diagnosis; he’s been gone for five more. That’s 11 years my spirit has been crushed and at 44 years old, I’ve lived a fourth of my life in grief. There it was…my A-HA moment!
So what have I learned? When the feelings hit, let them come. Honor them. Think about where they are coming from and start writing, because, likely, they are trying to tell me something.
I felt like I’d made significant progress. And just a few nights later I dreamt my dad showed up at my door to spend the day with me. I could smell his Aqua Velva ice blue aftershave, could feel the softness of his flannel shirt. He hugged me. Twice! And I could feel those hugs…feel the squeezes, just like those he used to give so freely. Best. Dream. Ever.
Although I know today may hit me continuously in the feels, I know I’m not alone. I’m catching a flight to DC this afternoon to run the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend. Yes, my dad’s dog tags will be tucked close to my heart, but I will have someone else along for the run…I will be a living memorial for a fallen veteran I never had the honor of meeting.
We’ve got this, John!
I know it will be a wildly emotional experience, but hey…I know exactly what to do with that now. And I know I won’t be the only one!!!