Happy Birthday and Some Life Lessons to Boot!

Happy 69th Birthday Dad!

You always passed on the best life lessons.

Wish you were here for us to celebrate. Even though you physically aren’t, I’m still celebrating you and I’m still learning life’s lessons.

Turns out I have learned a lot in the 11 years you have been gone.

I have now lived through 11 years without you in my world, 11 Father’s Day, 11 days where I memorialize and mourn your passing, celebrate 11 of my birthdays, thinking how much I have grown as a woman and then your birthday, just four days later.

I have lived through and now learned the agonizing, painful lesson that the last act of true love; is grief.

I learned that birth begins a life and a relationship and that death ends a life but not the relationship.

I learned that at nearly 39, while I was strong and independent, much of that was because of my faith in you and you were a cornerstone to my world.

So during this eleven years, I learned how to build myself back up from the inside out…with some bumps and bruises along the way and some lessons I have had to live through a few times over in hopes I learned them for good.

I learned how to forgive and accept your physical being leaving before I was ready to say good bye, even though you kept trying to prepare me and it wasn’t your fault.

Your greatest act of emotional generosity, was your attempt of talking me through your pending death and what you knew would surely be my pending grief.

In the year before you died, I vividly recall the day you came out of an unsuccessful surgery, and you called me into the hospital room on my own. You wanted to tell me I needed to prepare myself…as I laid my head on your arm with tears streaming down my face in anguish and denial. You waited patiently through your own pain until I finally looked up at you and you said, “you have to Hope, for you and your family. You have to learn how to live without me. So you can live on.” and I asked you, “how will I live without you?”

Maybe this sounds strange – asking a person you love to give you tips on how to grieve their death – but you were my father, if anyone could tell me…it would be you.

You seemed to understand that this would be such a soul crushing blow, I might not quite recover, even for the love of life.

You said many comforting things, how I had to prepare myself, how we had each day until the time came, how I would carry you inside me, how my memories of you would live on forever, how you believed in my resilience. How my family needed me and depended on me and that life would go on. You told me how you wanted me to stay close to Bunny and the girls and how that would help me stay connected. You made me promise. You told me, “I want to make sure that I’ve told you how proud of you I am. I want to make sure you know.”

Yet the unspoken was clear: I’m going to die sooner rather than later and I need you to get ready.

I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it because to believe it meant I accepted it. And this was something I thought I could never accept.

I thought my will and faith, and your will and faith, the collective will and faith of us all could be stronger then death…stronger then this cancer…and for awhile it was. For awhile it looked like we were going to win.

Until suddenly, no amount of will or faith on earth could change it.

Something in me, didn’t believe it the moment it happened, when the phone call came, as I was racing across the state from Daytona to Dunedin with a premonition to be by your side. When I hadn’t beat your sudden last breath, on the causeway and I stood screaming in disbelief at the Bay…into the crashing waves and wind that didn’t hear me and cared even less…

When death cheated you of life and in doing so, cheated all of us of you.

I didn’t believe it as I sat for hours by your lifeless body and felt the last bit of warmth leave you. Bunny, family and friends all there. All of us collectively grieving and already memorializing you.

I didn’t believe it when I gave your eulogy. Standing there, at the pulpit, before nearly 600 people, at our home church in downtown Dunedin. Taking deep breaths, thinking I might faint or sob or not be able to say what I had written…only I did. I got through it all, voice barely cracked, and while teary eyed…I didn’t sob…yet I was in disbelief.

Truth is, I don’t know that I’ll ever believe it…because to me, your not gone. You’re just not physically here, and that I have come to accept. Only, I believe you are just around the spiritual corner…and that is where you have been for eleven years. Around the corner, waiting for us to catch up.

So it turns out, I didn’t really learn how to live without you but I did learn how to live on.

Differently.

Still joyfully, more awake and empowered then ever before, stronger spiritually and with a deeper hope and faith in myself, and God, and others. I did learn that lesson.

And, I learned that we have each day until our time comes…because today is today…and so we must be grateful for all that we have in our life in the very moment that we have it.

I learned to never question what the future holds.

And, I learned how to let go, even when we don’t get to say good bye.

Yes, today is your birthday and I celebrate all of you…and while I accept you aren’t here, you were right – you do live on in me…and I have learned that lesson too.

As always,

Go in love,

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