I Miss Him

It’s difficult to explain the loss of my dad to people who have never lost a parent. It’s an indescribable  arrange of emotions that don’t make sense and contradict each other. It’s hard to pinpoint what I miss the most because I miss everything. My heart screams in pain at what I’ve lost, but it can’t figure out how to put those feelings into words. When tears stream down my face and someone asks why, the only words I can find are “I miss him.” Simple, yet, those words describe how I feel at the sixth anniversary of my dad’s death perfectly. 

I’ve learn over the years that nothing anyone says to me will make me feel better. When someone tells me he’s always with me, I fight the urge to roll my eyes – it’s easy for other people to say that – they can still call their dads, I can’t. They can visit their dads, but unfortunately for me, Heaven doesn’t have visiting hours. They can tell their dads that they love him and hear those words spoken back to them; I can tell my dad I love him, but never again will I hear him speak those words. 

I try to go into the week leading up to my dad’s death with no expectations of how I will react, yet, I get frustrated when the tears come. I’ve cried those same tears for six years. I know that no matter how many tears I cry, it won’t change anything. The tears allow my heart to say the words that I find myself unable to speak. When I can’t express why I’m so upset, the tears try to communicate it. Yet, my mind knows that no amount of tears or words can ever change what happened. Perhaps that’s what’s most difficult. 

The tears flow for what I’ve lost – my dad. They flow for all the hugs I’ll never get, all the “I love yous” that were left unspoken, all the stories left untold. They also flow for the things I’ll never get to experience with my dad – he’ll never walk me down the aisle, I’ll never see the look in his eyes when I tell him he’s going to be a grandpa, I’ll never look across the hospital room and watch as my dad stares into the eyes of his grandchild. The tears flow for everything I miss as well as everything I lost and everything I’ll never get to experience with my dad. 

On this anniversary of my dad’s death, I find myself still struggling with words. It’s the one time of the year when I find words to be the most difficult to find. The tears that escape my eyes, the sobs that escape my soul, and the heartache that fills me are what define the day. 

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What I Miss the Most

“What do you miss the most about him?”

With the sixth anniversary of my dad’s death fast approaching, I find myself wanting to talk about him. About how special he was to me. About how much losing him hurt. About all my memories of him. Losing him tore my heart apart. 

In the week leading up the anniversary of my dad’s death, I never know how I’m going to react. Sometimes I’m fine and can go about life like everything is okay. Sometimes I cry for a week leading up to the anniversary and when the day arrives, I’m fine. Sometimes I try to sleep the entire day away to block it from memory. I roll with it and have learned not to make plans or set expectations. 

I tell a couple people around me – the people most likely to notice if my attitude or mood suddenly changes. I don’t want them to worry about me, but I need them to understand if the bubbly person I try to be who cracks jokes suddenly goes into hiding and a little girl emerges who is trying to hold back the tears threatening to fall. 

This year, I told two co-workers. The ones who I see every day, the ones I’m always talking to, the ones who will notice if something isn’t right. One of them posed the question above to me – my initial response was that I miss everything and that I really miss his hugs.

I’ve kept thinking about it though. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that I miss more than the others. I truly miss everything. 

What I Miss the Most

I miss the way that my daddy would wrap his arms around me – the feeling of complete security, knowing that I was safe from the world. I miss the proud look in his eyes whenever I reached my goal and I miss the joy in his eyes whenever he was happy. I miss our talks in the garage and I miss sitting down at the table with him. I miss the daily text messages – the reminders “Love you. God Bless you. Have a great day!” and I’m ashamed that I ever once considered those reminders to be annoying. I miss taking time to spend with him and I miss how he always picked up the phone when I called. I miss the reassuring voice in the other end of the line. I miss the sound of his voice. I miss knowing that whatever happened, my dad always had my back. I miss the parent in my life and I miss knowing that he was okay with whatever decision I made. I miss my protector and my hero and my friend. I miss the feeling of never questioning if someone loved me because he showed me daily that he did. I miss him directing the church choir and I miss learning new music from him. I miss the look in his eyes as he stood there before the congregation and led the choir in a performance. I miss the happiness in his eyes and the concentration on his face and the achievement of standing up directing a choir where he wanted to be. I miss hearing stories about how he wanted to be a musician and about the record he made. I miss hearing him sing and I miss all the lessons he tried to teach me. I miss the sound of his voice when he talked about God and how he knew exactly where he stood with Him. I miss reading the Bible together and talking about how Revelations scared me as a child. I miss being told there was nothing to be scared of. I miss waking him up in the middle of the night when I was scared and I miss when he left for work at 4:30am and snuck into my bedroom to give me a kiss – oftentimes I was awake, although I never let him know. I miss everything. 

I just miss my dad. 

And it’s one of the hardest things to do – living life knowing that a piece of your heart was ripped away from you. Understanding that God has a plan and being grateful for where you are, yet longing to go back in time to the person you lost.

Usually the days go by and everything is fine. However, sometimes the days are long and hard. On those days I find myself leaning on those around me to help pick me up or offer up a comforting word or just listen to me. Those are the people I find myself hanging onto these days. The ones who will help see me through the happy times and the sad times and show me similar love to that my dad always did. 

Laugh at Funerals

My dad gave me a lot of advice when I was growing up, advice I still find myself clinging to some days. The earliest piece of advice I remember was to “always laugh at funerals.” Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions like I did when he spoke those words to me, let me explain the reasoning. My dad told me that funerals are supposed to be a happy time because your loved one has met Jesus and that’s pretty cool. Funerals are sad for those of us left on Earth, but they’re a joyful time for your loved one because they have finally met God. He made me promise to not cry when he died, but instead, to laugh and be happy for him. 

I remember when my dad died – a memory forever ingrained in my brain. I remember thinking of my promise to him – to laugh instead of cry. I must have cried a million tears since that fateful day my world turned upside down. However, I didn’t cry during his memorial service – partly because I was too exhausted to cry anymore tears and partly because I wanted to uphold my promise to him. 

Fast forward a few years and I was recently faced with one of the hardest funerals imaginable – a baby funeral. I went to support the friends who are family. Like so many times before, my dad’s words played in my head. 

I didn’t laugh this time. Not that I’ve ever actually laughed at a funeral, but usually my dad’s words help me keep my emotions in check. However, as I sat there looking at that tiny coffin, thinking to myself that I didn’t even know coffins were made so small, tears started to well in my eyes. And when I watched the baby’s father lean over to kiss the coffin, I couldn’t hold back anymore. My heart was absolutely breaking for the pain of this wonderful family who lost their baby way too soon. 

I don’t think my dad ever meant that you should actually laugh at funerals – that’s rude – it was his way of trying to help me deal with the numerous funerals we attended when I was a child. He often told me how when he died he wanted to be sitting up in his coffin with a camera so that as people walked up, he could tell them what he thought of them – and I would laugh every time. My dad had a sense of humor about everything – even life altering things like death. He was so firm in his belief in God, that death didn’t scare him – and if it did, he never let it show. Even so, as an adult, his words still ring in my head, and although I know it’s okay to show my emotions, remembering that my dad told me to laugh helps me to stay strong and support those around me when they need it most. 

My Front Tooth

My dad taught me a lot of lessons before his death. In addition to teaching me about God, life, and reassuring me that he was always okay with my decisions, he also found time to teach me about beauty. He continuously reminded me that I was beautiful, even on the days when I didn’t feel it. 

He took a special interest in building my confidence. First there was the scar on my forehead – this didn’t bother me much. I hated my bangs, I wanted to grow my hair out, and I could only vaguely remember not having that scar. However, when it came to my teeth, I was a thousands times more conscious.

You see, when I was a child, I lost my baby tooth and the adult tooth refused to come in. We went to the dentist where it was discovered that I had 1.5 adult teeth in that socket and that was the reason the adult tooth hadn’t come in yet. I had surgery and the extra half tooth was removed. The full adult tooth would come in at a slight angle. I would spend the next decade refusing to smile with my teeth showing.

At one point, I was supposed to get braces to fix the problem and my overbite. However, financial struggles prevented this was happening. I remembering being so upset with my dad as a teenager because I was so unhappy with my teeth and knew there was a solution but also knew it wasn’t going to be a reality. 

My dad never got upset back. Instead, he took a different approach – he would build my self confidence up and help me overcome my hatred of my teeth. He encouraged me to smile with my teeth, telling me how happy it made him when he saw me truly happy. When taking senior pictures, he started to crack jokes to make me laugh, getting the picture he truly loved – his daughter having a great time. I remember when those pictures came back, he pointed out his favorite picture – the one where you could see my teeth. At the time, it wasn’t my favorite and I choose a different picture for my yearbook. His favorite picture was kept in my scrapbook, the wall, and in his wallet. 

Over the years, I’ve grown to love that picture almost as much as my dad. I understand what he saw in it that I was unable to see as a stubborn teenager – there was happiness in my eyes. I let down my guard and laughed, forgetting for a moment about my teeth. 

I’ve gained more confidence as the years have passed. I’m no longer self-conscious about my teeth or the tooth that is at a slight angle. Now, I’m extremely grateful for the time and energy my dad spent all those years to help turn me into the woman I am – and to help me gain the confidence to take on the world.