When I was a teenager, my dad used to go to bed early so he could wake up before anyone else and enjoy the quiet of the house.
My mom, Derek, and I always stayed up late after midnight.
I would often talk 1:1 with my dad right before he went to sleep.
He was usually reading a book when I would come in and plop down on the covers.
We would talk for a while about what he was reading or something on my mind.
Thinking back on my teenage thoughts, anything I ever said was probably insignificant… but he never made it feel that way. ❤️
I distinctly remember when it was time, he would slip a bookmark in between the pages, close the cover, and click the light off as I slowly shut the door behind me.
That’s how it feels now.
Dad clicked the light off early.
I slowly shut the door.
And Mom, Derek, and I are the only ones awake in the house.
The second half of January was go-go-go, wanting to busy my mind from actually thinking about... IT.
Work went back into full swing and I embraced it. Surrounded by happy people in love was an amazing gift.
Three days after IT happened, the Washington Post article was published and news stations started calling each day. ☎️📞
These people were asking me to talk about Dad and that’s actually ALL I wanted to do.
I didn’t want to think about what had just happened, I simply wanted to talk about him… because he was just on a trip somewhere.
His next great adventure.
The first question each news station asked was, “Tell me about your dad.”
Don’t mind if I do! 📣
Sharing everything I love about him made it seem like he was still alive.
It was such a gift and felt very cathartic. Each 20-60 minute interview was cut down to 2 minutes focusing on the trending bucket list story, but for me, it was ‘talk therapy’ behind the scenes.
My brother and mom were both on board with the news coverage.
Derek said, “I think these interviews and stories are important not only because Dad would appreciate the attention, but because this is the time when we're most likely going to be able to tell the story of his life to a wider public. And hopefully, through that, he will continue inspiring people in death as he did in life. Keep it up if you can.”
The timing of everything actually was ideal because on January 31st, the day after his Celebration of Life, my entire physical being felt EXHAUSTED.
As if all the air was just let out of the balloon. 🎈 💭
The two weeks prior had been filled with:
✅ Planning a funeral for family
✅ A separate Celebration of Life with 150+ guests
✅ Sourcing & Scanning old photos for an extensive heirloom video to be played at the Celebration of Life
✅ Co-writing a eulogy with my brother that had to somehow describe and honor our amazing dad‘s life in a matter of minutes.
✅ Parenting three young children (7am on Monday, Jan. 31st: “Oh yeah, I have a school project due TODAY.” 🤦🏻♀️)
✅ Working with amazingly flexible clients who had waited since November because I took December off and had not anticipated this would all go down in January.
He was below ground, I was above. 😞
When Covid hit the world, everything seemed to collectively pause for a while.
When we go through a personal loss, the timeline is our own.
There’s no vaccine to slow the grief. Only time does that.
I’m not there yet… An open wound sitting in the ER waiting to be addressed.
Except a doctor can’t fix this wound. It’s deep with no access. 💔
So I’m head-down at work, focusing on love.
Mentoring myself––in the way he would have––that I have an incredible capacity to accept that which I cannot change.
Accepting that one of my daily cheerleaders will now be a silent partner…
One of the ways we used to bond was over my life’s work and its trajectory over the years. He saw it begin as merely a dream in conversation to where it is now.
He saw way beyond the ‘highlight reel.’
One of my fears is that he will look down on our family here… wishing to physically be a part of it. Present for the climb, missing the reward.
I imagine he’s looking down on me right now saying I’m missing the point... That being there for the climb *was* the reward.
One thing that always struck me was… there was not a single time in my life where he made it seem like his kid being an artist would be a disappointment.
When I chose to study art in college, he did so much research on art schools that he considered writing a book on the subject!
He was always sending me articles about successful artists to inspire me and show me what was possible. ⭐️
No matter what I was interested in, he would learn about it and take an interest himself.
There is something disorienting about feeling as if someone is still here, but also not here.
A friend who cared for his parent in their last stage of life recently said, “It showed me the best of who I am.”
Wouldn’t it be amazing for an event to show you the BEST of who you are?
If someone told me I would have to watch my dad go through this beastly cancer, I would say, “No thank you, I will be fine not knowing the best of who I am.”
But here we are…
So I would like to adopt that identity now. Dad will not look down on me and see it was all for nothing.
I will share.
I will connect. ❤️❤️
Dad and I enjoyed playing Yahtzee when I was growing up.
He and I both liked to win.
But we respected each other‘s wins… he taught me to honor my opponent’s success rather than stay in a huff about it.
Acknowledging that my turn would come.
Or maybe it wouldn’t.
That was the adventure of trying.
We had intentions to play Yahtzee again on the quieter days of his cancer experience since when he was feeling great he wanted to go out and explore.
But on those other days… there was no energy available to play.
So we never did. 😕
As I think back on growing up, I’m starting to realize just how much time I really spent with my parents.
At 16, I had a strange feeling that if I got my driver’s license, I would get into a car accident. So I didn’t get my license until 22 after college.
That meant a lot more time in the car with mom and dad during those formative years. (Since Dad was my high school principal, we were going to the same place each day anyway.)
Joe and I moved into my parent’s backyard casita for a few years after we got married to help save for a house. (Although Dad *would* want me to point out that he charged us rent 😂).
But again, more time together.
When we eventually purchased our first home, my parents came over every Sunday night for dinner sandwiched between our nightly phone calls to talk about the day.
This wasn’t forced, I just genuinely like my parents. Similar to families of many cultures, we experience life “together.”
Once twins arrived, it was “all hands on deck.” My amazing mom and dad came over 5-6 days a week to help us take care of them while Joe & I worked.
As the boys started Kindergarten, Dad would pick them up each day to then meet Mom and baby Liv at home. They would stay until I got there so we could all do the kid’s prayers, gratitudes, reading & lullaby time together.
Always present. Always together, as a family.
As I get older, so do my parents.
Parent… (ugh) That’s a gut punch 😞
I encourage everyone with parents who are alive to really share more time with them, if possible.
You will never regret it.
Having literally laid on Dad’s deathbed during his transition to wherever, I can say for certain that watching someone take their last breath makes life feel short. So…
For all the new memories to be made in this earthly world… Feeling Blessed & Grateful ❤️