I still remember the burning in my chest and the feeling of my lungs closing up when I heard those words. “I have cancer.” Those three horrible, disgusting, god-forsaken words. Words that I would never wish upon anyone, ever, because those words took the most amazing man away from this world, my father.
He was a very kind man. Selfless, loving, thoughtful and brilliant. It’s been a little over a year since I got to hear his favorite line, “Take care;” or to go to our favorite restaurants and stuff our faces; or watch endless hours of “Investigation Discovery.” Not that each day, in itself, isn’t hard without him, but during the holidays it’s always the most painful. That painful sting that lingers inside of you gets brought to the surface. Not that you ever forget, but you just remember even more.
It will probably never get easier; I can’t see how it possibly could. But I know in the back of my mind that he is always right beside me, guiding my every move. I always try to keep that in the forefront of my mind when I start to tremble at the idea of never seeing him again; never hearing his voice; or feeling his teddy bear hugs.
I do things in his honor; to make myself feel closer to him. Whether it be helping those around me, being a genuine friend or eating his favorite coconut cake, doing things I know he loved or would be proud of makes me feel close to him. Last December I made a donation to the American Cancer Society and to a Chrone’s Foundation that my dad had supported. Doing these things don’t only make me feel better, but help that sting of grief to lessen a little.
Other things to keep in mind around the holiday times are to plan ahead, scale back and be gentle with yourself. Make sure you have a plan before the holiday times approach, so you know what to expect and so others can know how you want to handle this time. Because grief robs us of our physical and emotional energy, consider cutting back on various holiday tasks such as decorations, sending cards or baking if it’s going to put too much strain on yourself.
Trust me, I know it’s hard; extremely, heart-wrenching, pulling-out-your-hair hard. To be frank, I’m surprised I’ve made it this far. This long without my number one supporter and fighter. Of course, that bursting, cringe-worthy feeling still creeps inside me, but I’ve learned to, I guess, manage it and live a life I know he’d be happy to see me living. Write notes to your loved ones, think of them often, visit, talk, light a candle – whatever helps you out. They are always there watching, guiding and praying that you have the strength to live life, like the thousands out there who are missing a loved one.
Remember: Love does not end in death. We keep our loved ones alive by the way we live our life, so go on and live your life.