*I just observed the one year anniversary of my Dad’s death.
It was a solemn observance. I miss him immensely. I think of him every day and my mind often recalls the flurry of events and emotions leading up to his transition. It was a surreal passage in my life.
It’s a strange feeling not having a parent on the planet. I described it to a friend as feeling “half orphaned.” I was raised by two parents who both contributed so much to my life and were an important influence on my life. Now one is of them gone and so is my sense of balance. This has been a year of recalibration.
The impulse to pick up the phone to tell my Dad about something good that had just happened to me was hard to break. Dad loved hearing about my various pursuits. Not long after he died, without thinking I quickly pressed his speed dial number and it was if a pulse of electricity emitted from phone alerting me that he couldn’t be reached from this number any longer. Needless to say, that was the moment that triggered me to delete it.
My dad was a very significant figure in my life, someone I’ve often written about as being “painfully human” because I watched him face the decisions he had made in his life that eclipsed the super hero status he wanted to portray to him family but simply couldn’t. But it didn’t diminish the love, admiration and reverence I had for him. At the end of his life I finally convinced him of that. Although he was unable to speak because of his failing condition, his knowing eyes and the gentle squeeze of my hand acknowledged he understood it all in a moment of connectedness I will never forget.
One of my most endearing memories of my Dad was when he was teaching me how to tie my shoe laces. I remember wining because I just couldn’t do it. Ok I was a little bratty about it. Dad was old school, a strong proud black man who wouldn’t accept defeat. He said to me, “Veronica there’s no such thing as can’t. Keep trying. You will get it. Don’t give up.” These are words that I have lived by my entire life. I shutter to think where I would be today had he not seared those words into my spirit.
Losing a loved one changes you. That’s real talk. I’ve heard it said countless times in my life. Now I know it for sure.
I am more demonstrative than I have ever been not just to family but to my friends. I never end a conversation with my mom without hugging her, giving her a kiss and telling her I love her. I never leave a gathering of friends and family with hugging them. I take every opportunity to let those chose to me know they have value in my life. When a family member or friend is in distress or despair, I am present, I show up and do what I can and don’t make pretenses about what I can’t do. And I’ve learned that love is verb, it’s something you do and it is not driven by reciprocity.
This transparency, honesty and vulnerability have come with a price. It’s not always accepted, reciprocated or appreciated. But at this juncture, living life without these virtues is not an option. I will be magnanimous in love and its pursuit. But I will not be a doormat if it is rebuffed.
I’ve also learned that tears are healing, cleansing and restorative. Losing my Dad hurt and was a big loss that affected me deeply. The tears flowed like a streamed at one point. Prior to his death, when things hurt me, I just painted over them with busyness, pride and impassivity, but not anymore. Recently someone said something that hurt my feelings and I yelped “ouch!” They asked me what was wrong, and I told them “that hurt,” and instead of me burying the situation, I dealt with it and forged a closer bond with that person.
I have indeed grown from this entire experience. It’s not been a year without struggle, uncertainty or moments of sadness. They say time eases the pain and I would add that for me, it animates the memory and the spirit of the departed.
I’ve thought long and hard about that little appendage, “it animates the memory and the spirit” and I don’t share that as some trite or pithy platitude. It’s been my experience. The essence of my Dad, the aggregate of life and his cherished values and adages are very much alive and resonant. He has been transformed into a clear and present force in my life. When I have moments of introspection, he seems even closer.
Not long after my Dad died, I was up late one night watching an encore presentation of the “Today Show.” One of the guests on the show was the author of a book entitled, “Heaven is for real,” by Todd Burpo. It’s the story of his four-year-old son Colton Burpo and the account of heaven he allegedly experienced while undergoing an emergency appendectomy. It was a fascinating story and provided a glimpse into heaven I’ve never heard before and needed to hear. It was comforting through fantastically ethereal.
I immediately went online and ordered the book. It’s a quick read and I finished it in a day. Now when I think of my Dad I smile and say, “Dad keep advocating for me from up high and if you do have an assignment, I hope it’s watching over me.” Somehow, I think it is.
Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods. She is the author of “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes.” Visit http://bromontavefoods.com for more information. For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected].