Loss

Three years. 36 months. 1095 days since your heart last beat, and I’m at a loss. A loss of how to feel, a loss of what to say…

When you passed, I learned how hard it was to lose a parent for everyone involved. The other parent had to learn to grieve and take over the second role that you left behind. For everyone else, friends and family alike, they now had to figure out what their new role in our lives would be. And for my brother, sister, and me, who understood that we would never receive one of your bear hugs again, or be able to hear your voice say “yello” when you picked up your phone, or see your smile, and recognized that you were gone, could never have fully been prepared for all the ways it would affect our lives over the years.

For three years, I spent my life living the way you would have. I’ve made decisions based on thought processes you taught me, I’ve modeled my behavior from what I observed during our 19 years together, and that is what has aided me in my quest to remember you and live my life without your physical presence. But it has also reminded me that everyone is different when it comes to grieving.  This is how I grieve, but that doesn’t mean it’s how everybody faces the loss of someone they love dearly.Some people are able to resume life immediately, others need a break before jumping into old routines, and some people are fine for awhile, but break down along the road. And that is fine. There is no manual on how to grieve, there is no timeline that states this is when you should be over it and able to live normally. There never will be. It is a trial and error process and I assure you that no two people will follow the same path.

The past three years have been a roller coaster of emotions, about you and about life in general, but one thing I’ve learned is that your death didn’t fully hit me all at once. Instead, it broke itself up into a million milestones that rip my heart open all over again. I didn’t realize you were gone once we closed your casket and held the funeral service. Instead, I realized that you were gone when I moved into my first apartment, or when I had breakdowns about classes in college and not feeling like I was succeeding at what I wanted to do, or when I got engaged. The knowledge and pain I felt during these moments was fresh, ripping through me just as it had when my sister told me you had passed. People always assume holidays are the hardest, that it hurts the most when Christmas approaches or when Father’s Day approaches, but it’s not. It’s the little things, the day to day events that remind us how much your presence is missed and wanted. It’s a random weekday morning, while you’re making coffee and look at the Sudoku puzzle in the newspaper and are reminded of the times you spent doing these puzzles together, talking about life and what is to come. And then you give yourself a little bit of time, gather yourself up and go on with your day.  And that whole day is a struggle for you, a struggle to fight your tears with a smile and no one knows how much your struggling because it’s just another random weekday morning.

A lot has happened in the past 1095 days: joys and defeats, loves and losses, laughs and tears, but one thing remains the same.  You are with us in whatever way you can be and you gave us each other to help us with this journey we are undertaking.

I’m still looking for you in the sky.

 

54.

Another bittersweet time in the timeline of your passing. Today, you would have been 54. We would have three more years of memories, of laughter shared, of talks had, of hugs given, and of love spread. It’s inexplicable, this feeling that time seems to have stopped when you passed, yet continues to go at an incredible pace. Mom put it perfectly the other night, there are so many things we miss about you that we never could have guessed. They range from your smile, the way you answered the phone, how you refused to admit that you were ever wrong, the way your head tilted up when you drank your rum and cokes while you barbecued, the the way you yelled at the TV when you watched the Packers, the pride you always had in your eyes when you talked about your family, and the sound of your laugh. But most of all, I miss your presence. I miss your opinions, our talks of school and life, the lessons you always seemed to instill in those talks. I miss you more than ever right now, and I’m sure it has to do with the life changes our family is undergoing. In essence, I’m mad at you for selfish reasons. You left before Robbie graduated high school, you left before Allie started conquering her dreams one booking at a time, you left before I could tell you my new career plans, and you left before you could re-meet Nick. At what point  in her life does a daughter need her father to meet the other most important man in her life? And I think it’s hard on all of us. So, yes, I’m selfish in why I am missing you lately, but missing you will never end. The reasons will change as swift and quickly as the seasons, but the act of missing you will always remain a constant.

You should be here. We should be celebrating 54 years of wonderful life. Instead, we are indefinitely celebrating the wonderful 51 years you were able to give us. Heaven took you too soon from this world, but I rest comfortably with that fact knowing that they needed you more.

Your wings were ready, but our hearts were not.

 

The Soft Glow of the Moon.

I run through the darkness, following the light of the moon. My breath trails behind me, leaving a foggy memory of where I came from as my feet pound the pavement.  Inhale, exhale my brain reminds as I once again find my rhythm. The mixture of endorphin and adrenaline ignite my veins, temporarily causing the thoughts coursing through my brain at a million miles a minute to fade away. Utter and total silence fill the night sky around me as my muscles strain to keep moving.

Once my lungs feel as though they can’t function, and my muscles and body are wrought with exhaustion do I lay and look at the night sky. I’m too tired to think clearly, but one thought is always nagging at me: am I running aimlessly in the dark,  or are you the soft glow of the moon, helping me to navigate the darkness?

Perhaps that’s why I prefer to run early in the morning or late at night, because the darkness is broken by a halo of golden light. Perhaps it is because I believe that you are breaking the darkness that surrounds me; that  you are the moon and I am a star, basking in your glow and guidance. Perhaps it is because this is how I cling to the idea that you are with me, and I will always run towards you.

 

The Greatest Hero

How apt it is that this 2.5 year mark falls two days after Veteran’s Day. There was not a day in your life when you weren’t serving someone besides yourself. It started in the US Navy, when you answered your nation’s call to serve and began a nine year career as an F-14 Radar Intelligence Officer. You put your life on the line every day for people you did not know, and people you would never know. Yet, you did it without hesitation. After your family was born, you ended that service and took on a new type of service – one that allowed you to become our greatest hero.

You served your family in more ways than I could ever explain. It wasn’t just the phones you passed up so that we could have the “latest and the greatest” nor was it the countless hours you spent supporting us at whatever event we had that day. It was in the selfless way you put us above yourself; in the way you loved us without expecting anything in return; it was in the way you helped us think through life and the problems we encountered; it was in the silent protective presence you emitted. It was in your honesty and loyalty to your family; in the way you stood by your word; and in the heart you maintained pure as gold. You never asked for praise, you never wanted the glory that came with your accomplishments. You worked hard and kept your head and heart humble. You may not be the most famous hero, but you’re my greatest hero.

I didn’t ever get the chance to tell you that when you walked the same planet as me, so hopefully you can read this from wherever you are. You took my hand when I was little and helped showed me the way. You stood by my side and watched as I grew into the woman your love and care helped mold me to be. You watched me make mistakes, helped pick me up off the ground and pushed me to try again. No matter what I did, no matter how stupid the mistake was, you were there, ready with a band-aid and unwavering support. I’ll always treasure the memories I share with you, and I will always  wish that you are here for the ones to come, but for now I’ll strive to model my life after my greatest hero. I may not always understand why you were taken from us so early, and with so much life to live, but if your life is any indication of why God wanted you in Heaven, at least I can say that I agree with his decision.

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t miss you with my whole heart.

There’s not a day where I don’t sit and wonder what it would be like to have one more final conversation with you.

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t wish that I would have had the power to heal you.

I won’t immortalize you in the stars, because stars fade away.

Instead, I’ll safeguard you within my heart and carry you with me every day.

I know you are in the birds I see and the air I breathe.

I just hope they gave you wings as fast as your old ones, daddy.

I’ll look for you in the sky.

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XO – Forever your little girl

Let the Energy Flow

We were never meant to become bitter. We were never meant to become cruel shadows of ourselves; never meant to live with hard hearts that impede our energy flow. This world was not meant to break and twist us into small figurines in a puppet show. This world was meant to provide experiences and to provide opportunities for growth.

However, most people see these opportunities as risks – risks that can potentially cause pain. And pain, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, is something humans are determined to protect themselves from. When we sense pain approaching, steel walls cascade down the sides of our heart, blood vessels and brain, securely connecting and bolting the locks so that we feel guarded.  When we do this, we believe that the pain will be deflected, that it will not touch us and our armor will be left unscathed. Despite our tendency to do this, this is not what our body was made for. Our bodies are not able to deflect pain, instead our brain helps to create an illusion of deflection, when in reality that pain, along with all of the other stored memories that correlate with pain, remain in our hearts center. Our bodies were meant to experience life and all it has to offer, not to provide protection from what may happen.

Our bodies are fountains of energy, ebbing and flowing with the rising tide of some experiences and cascading like a waterfall with others. Our bodies were meant to radiate this energy and to send/receive vibrations from the surrounding environment and people. By guarding our hearts with a steel cage, we are stopping the flow of our energy. The negative energy of pain becomes a roadblock, slowly embedding it’s aura in our blood stream, in the way our body moves, the way it thinks… This energy radiating from our center slowly builds over time, gaining power over our inner peace, blocking the new energy that new experiences can bring into our reservoir. Instead of protecting ourselves with the lock and key cage around our heart and brain, we are subconsciously destroying ourselves. We are creating an overflowing body of negative energy that will soon become permanent.

What if, instead of blocking its access to our inner workings, we simply embraced the pain as it came with our heart and mind open? If we did this, we would face the fear and the pain for a matter of minutes compared to a matter of years. We would bypass triggers that resurface old pain and continue to affect our lives today. We would be able to continue to grow without impediment and without an unhindered energy flow.

Open yourself up to the experience of pain. Embrace it as if it is an old friend. Face it, feel it. Let it pass through you and then, let it go.

Holding on to pain and fear makes us bitter. It makes us cynical about the world, people, and life in general. Whatever our reason is for being on this Earth, I know that being bitter is not it. Our purposes are far beyond that. So stop impeding your energy flow for the energy you project is the energy that flows back to you. Why should this energy be anything but beautifully positive? Stop “shielding” yourself from life and start experiencing it.

The Most Terrifying Predator

Recently, I came across an infographic (pictured below) that was being shared on Facebook in honor of shark week.  It was interrupting a slew of the classic red, white and blue pictures that signify the dawning of the 4th of July, so it was a stark contrast as I scrolled through my newsfeed. At first, I didn’t know what to make of it; the pink color, the information it was so accurately displaying. I thought it was a little extreme, and then it hit me like a full speed freight train – it needed to be extreme.

In today’s society, we are so desensitized to the violence we see daily. Whether it be on the news, on the newest episode of Law and Order: SVU, or read in the newest thriller book that topped the weekly list. We watch people commit acts of harm and barely give it a passing glance, but that needs to end. As a survivor of sexual assault, it is now more important than ever that I use my voice and urge society to face the harsh reality that this picture illustrates.

As humans, we are innately fearful of creatures and animals that are larger, stronger and more powerful than we are. However, we never admit that these creatures and animals are sometimes other humans. In fact, we focus on other species because it’s easier to admit our fear for them than to admit we are afraid of what some humans are capable of. Just as Scooby Doo once taught us, sometimes the real monsters are not monsters at all but instead humans.

Yes, sharks are terrifying. I am terribly afraid of them and just about every other creature in the ocean and will barely enter past my knees should I ever find myself on the coast. But this isn’t a plausible reasoning to apply to my daily life. After I was attacked, I didn’t leave my home alone, nor did I venture out on the streets at night. Instead, I was paralyzed by the fear that I would see my attacker, that I would be left alone with him again and wouldn’t be able to get away in time. I’m sure this is a feeling experienced by nearly all survivors, one that leaves us feeling powerless and victimized. Sexual assault is becoming a prevalent epidemic in our nation and yet we are not doing everything in our power to help end it.

Instead, we spend millions of dollars creating shows about the predators of the sea, the predators that were never created to hunt us. Instead, we spend our money killing millions of creatures every year because we don’t know how to read their behavior and mindset to accurately predict when a shark attack will occur.

When will society realize that the scariest predators of all are indeed our own species? Instead of spending millions creating shows for Shark Week, why can’t we invest those funds into sexual assault prevention campaigns, into funds that help survivors, or to funds that help fund court cases for survivors who are brave enough to go on trial to get the justice they deserve?

I’m not saying this picture isn’t extreme, because it is. But if it hadn’t been this extreme, would we be having these types of conversations currently? My answer is no, and within that answer, is where society’s problem resides.

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Sunday, June 17th, 2012.

The indent from your body still permanently rests on the right end of the taupe couch, the one you complained was too soft to be truly comfortable. And it’s the image that accompanies that permanent impression that will always flash to my mind when I look at the right end of the too soft couch.

It’s the image of you, with your feet kicked up to the side, your eyes slowly closing and head drooping as you read the news for the day. It’s the image of you, eating your peanut butter egg sandwich as you watch the morning news on the weekends. It’s the images of you leaping up from your spot when the Packers made a good play. It’s the millions of little images that compile what remains of you. It’s the reminder that all that physically remains of you, is the imprint left on your chair.

Sunday, June 17th, 2012 was the last Father’s Day we ever had the blessing of sharing. It was taken for granted, you were not appreciated in the right way. Now, as the photos of people with their dads flood social media for the day, with the captions that ring with tones of superficial appreciation, I wish that I would have been grateful for you in the right ways. I’m saddened that it took the death of you for us to truly appreciate your giving heart and your soothing presence, instead of being just a deeper set of pockets for us to use when necessary. While it is a blessing to be able to have a father who can do that, it is not why we should appreciate them. They give up so much of their lives to ensure that we have a wonderful, stable life.

What my family would give if we could just say “Hi, Daddy, Happy Father’s Day!” one more time. What we would give to see his smile, hear his voice, his same old jokes and resounding laughter. What my family would give to chat with him and catch up on this Father’s Day is incomprehensible to most, unless they know the same pain.

So for those of you who still are blessed to have your dad, cherish him more than ever because the heartache we know when we see the impression on his vacant chair, is beyond compare.

A Thought On Intimacy

Intimacy is not about who you let touch you, it’s not about those that you let into your bed and under your sheets. Intimacy is not even in the realm that those are placed in. These are all physical acts, and intimacy is not a physical act. Intimacy is not the bareness of a body, but rather the bareness of a heart, mind and soul.

Intimacy is the look in someone’s eyes when they have told you their biggest fears in life, their biggest failures, their biggest mistakes…Intimacy is the ability to speak freely, of anything, and know that the only reaction you receive is acceptance. Intimacy is the ability to be fully honest with someone, to be able to communicate openly and without hesitation or need for lies. Intimacy is being comfortable in silence as you each do separate tasks, not worrying about anything because you know each other’s hearts, you know each  other’s hears.

In today’s world, and especially in my generation, society finds it easy to take their clothes off, be naked and have sex with one another without hesitation. But opening our souls to someone? Opening our spirits, hopes, fears, and dreams? It’s one of the hardest acts that our generation has ever happened upon. And what a tragedy that is; a willing generation too scared to ever truly open their hearts. I’ve never heard a more beautiful tragedy.

The Second Year Burn

Grief never ends…But it changes.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith,  it is the price of love.

They tell you that time will make it easier; that time will mend your broken heart with stitches and the scars will fade to the light pink that is only noticeable under the right light. They say that with time, the grief lessens, that the sadness lifts up out of your life and the gaping hole left in its midst is filled with memories and bliss.  While time might make it easier, I firmly believe that the second year is the hardest.

It’s hard to even say it. It’s hard to admit that someone you loved so dearly, someone that was a huge part of your life has been out of your life for two whole years.  I still find myself struggling to get the words out when people ask me about my dad. And what’s frightening is that it hasn’t gotten easier to admit by this second year. In fact, I think it’s gotten harder.

What makes the second year so hard? Well, I think it has to do with the year full of memories that you have created, but that the person you love is not a physical part of them. It’s how you notice that a few days go by where you don’t think about it and then it just hits you like a freight train roaring at full speed. It’s the idea that they have been gone for a full two years, making the fact that they won’t return more concrete than ever.

Personally,  I think it has to do with seeing all of these families around you,  whole and creating new memories.  It’s bittersweet to witness your friends growing up and sharing milestones with both of their parents. It’s a happy sight, to witness families creating these memories,  basking in the happiness they bring.  However,  I cannot help but feel a twinge of pain and jealousy mixed with guilt for feeling that way. By the time two years rolls around,  you have accumulated a multitude of memories that feel empty without your loved one.  And I think that’s what makes the second year so hard, the memories you have of your loved one start to become more distant as the new memories you’re accumulating start to fill those spaces.

There is no timeline to follow when it comes to the loss of someone you love,  especially a parent. The years following the loss can feel like you are submerged in an ocean of grief. The pain flows and ebbs, like the tides of the ocean.  Sometimes the water is calm,  and sometimes the water can be overwhelming.   We can never learn to control the motion of the water, all we can do is learn how to swim.  So that’s what the third year will be for me,  a trial and error in navigating the sea of life without my dad.

Pheonix Burning

She liked to watch things burn, to see the colors consume whatever was before. For so long it felt like she had been burning too bright, a star on the verge of a supernova. She had felt like everyone around her was blinded by her,  unable to see past what was outside.  They seemed confused when she talked,  unable to process the journey she was undergoing. When she realized how bright her aura was growing, she began to get worried, worried that she would burn out and no longer spread light into the depths of the world. So she began to diminish her flames, so everyone would understand her.  However,  she realized that by dimming her glow,  she was diminishing herself.  She began to become dark,  mentally and physically.  But that’s when her fascination with fire began.  She saw the beauty in the way the flames danced against the black sky,  the way they cut through the darkness and spread hope into despair.  That’s when she realized that fire doesn’t destruct, it creates.  It destroys to create,  but never to wreak havoc. It never leaves despair,  instead it leaves remnants so that something can be rebuilt.

Knowing that,  she spread her wings and embraced her destruction. She watched the flames with awe as they swirled around her,  engulfing all aspects of her life. To her this wasn’t her demise,  this was just the beginning. Because just as the beautiful, mythical pheonix,  this was her rebirth, this was her chance to rise from the ashes and recreate herself.  This was the part when she becomes born anew, into a  truer form that would allow her to soar to new heights.

So she watched with glowing eyes as the flames danced in her vision because she knows that demise is not synonymous with destruction. No, demise is simply rebirth,  an entry point to new paths and possibilities. And almost instantly, she felt the warmth from within as she embraced her old friend,  fire.