Those we love don’t go away. They walk beside us every day…unseen, unheard, but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear.
Today marks two years since my Dad passed away and there hasn’t been a day since, that I haven’t thought about him. When I think about his legacy, I look no further than the four cherished humans I share my home with.
My Dad’s whole world was his family. And when he passed, it became a mission of mine to intentionally craft a life that was centered around my children and my husband, even more so than I already do. My Dad did everything for his family. From early mornings at the farm to coming home exhausted yet showering and donning a suit to come watch me perform in a show or dance recital, or to a football game for one of my brothers; my dad – our dad – was there for us as much as he possibly could be.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about death, dying and the philosophy of life. Similar to one of my most favorite college courses that I really only took because it qualified as an elective under a category I don’t even remember, it reminded me of some of the ways in which we memorialize people after they’ve passed. We tend to forget the bad times, the not so favorable moments and we hold in higher regards, the moments that had poignant affects on our lives in those moments in time. What struck me about our discussion was that we both, admittedly, wished we knew our loved ones were – okay. That they were having the time of their life – in the afterlife.
Now, I believe in Heaven and I have a solid faith in our Creator; that our loved ones are prayed for continually through the process of grief and celebrated in the thoughts and memories they bring to our lives. But sometimes – that’s just not enough for me. I need more. I want more. I have to have more than that. And I have been praying for several months now that somehow I’d be given a sign that my father – is alright.
Two weeks into the New Year, after celebrating my 38th Birthday, I suffered my first anxiety attack. It was the scariest moment of my life. I’m still working through it because I couldn’t answer the question, why? Or how? It all happened so fast I wasn’t even considering that I was suffering.
It wasn’t until a couple weeks had passed that I started to put the pieces all together and sort through all of the emotions I’d held in for almost two years. I’m very sentimental and can cry at a mushy insurance commercial, but raw emotion scares me. I tend to laugh uncomfortably in those types of situations because I don’t know how to process all of the emotion and place the right feeling with how I should be responding. However recently I’ve been able to do just that, acknowledge a sentimental or emotional moment and process it for what it is. My kids laugh because they say I cry at everything. You know what? So did my Dad.
My Dad was very sentimental and tender hearted. He would whip out his handkerchief the moment he felt an onslaught of emotions rising, but he was never ashamed to show that emotion or to shed those tears. My Dad loved hard. Sometimes too hard that it caused some rifts in our family due to his indignant nature about those very emotions he so freely expressed. But he was never afraid to bare it all and to lean into what he was feeling and processing.
Those moments, and there are many to draw upon, have been at the forefront of my mind lately and somehow I cannot escape my own emotions of slowly coming to terms with the fact that he’ll never get to see his grandkids graduate high school and college, stand beside my mother as his grandchildren walk the aisle or stand next to their Priest or Pastor on their wedding day as they profess their love to their future soulmate in holy matrimony…he won’t be there for my Mom when she has her second knee surgery in April, or meet his 8th grandchild in May.
Somehow, all of this has just now hit me.
I really thought I’d processed much of my grief in the first year after his death but now I know I only dealt with the surface emotions. I hadn’t truly asked myself those in-depth, introspective questions so that I could push through and acknowledge it all. Doing so has calmed my soul and allowed me to begin the process of true grief – not just living through the day-to-day and ‘making it’ but truly thriving in this new world, post-loss.
My father loved rabbits.
My Dad would always tell us about the little jack rabbits that would run around the farm and how, when he was younger growing up in Argentina, he had a bunny rabbit named Tenetita, that he loved very much. In fact, my nickname from the time I was six months old and started having teeth bud through my gums was, Bunny. It’s what my Mom still to this day calls me. And up until penning this – only a few of my very close friends and my family knew this about me and the origin of my nickname, or that I even had one.
Yesterday, as I was running some errands for the kids, a little jack rabbit darted out in front of my car right as I was progressing down our street. At first it just scared me because I didn’t want to hit him. I too, love bunnies. And then I wondered, just for a split second…Dad? But I went about my day and didn’t think much more of it until I went to pick up my daughter from dance last night.
Side note – we’re in the throes of Jude’s recovery from his adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy and his ear tubes surgery so he’s been super ornery and hasn’t really slept the past several days. We’re barely holding on – send help! So, he was with me because he just had to come with, to pick up Miriam. You know those times with toddlers if you’ve ever had kids.
On our trek down the street to turn the corner – coming from the same direction as the one earlier in the afternoon, was a little baby jack rabbit. And this time I got chills. I still somewhat ignored them but I immediately started questioning the coincidence of these two moments and the timing – the day before the 2-year anniversary of his death. Don’t get me wrong – I was somewhat delirious because we have gotten a combined total of 5-6 hours sleep over 3 nights but I was not seeing things or having delusions. At least that I know of…regardless, it made me think of my Dad and comforted me as well.
Before picking up Miriam we needed some items from Publix. Jude and I pulled into the parking lot and he says, ‘Publix, yay!’ The kid is obsessed with Publix – and the laundry aisle. He wanted to walk it and asked if we could. I said, ‘okay Jude,’ and he gives me the biggest grin – holds a thumbs up and says, you got it!
And asked, “what did you say?” He held out his hand again with a thumbs up and said, ‘you got it!’ Jude had never done that before. Ever.
My Dad’s trademark was his thumbs up.
It was the single most recognizable aspect of every picture and every memory where our family was having the best of times. And it was how I was reminded – in that moment – that my Dad was doing just fine. My precious, sleep deprived and still hurting from the pain of his surgery, three-year old son – was delivering a message to me from my father in the most perfect way he knew how…
A thumbs up.
We still didn’t sleep last night. But I woke up this morning praising and thanking the Lord for sending me two very clear and poignant signs on the eve of my father’s passing. So I sent one big thumbs up towards the Heavens, right back to my Dad, and smiled.
Today is going to be a good day because every day is good when you have so much to be thankful for…and to remember.
I miss you every day Dad, but I’m so grateful to know you’re okay.
⁃ Confessions of a Corporate Mom