It has been 69 days since I sat in the hospital bed next to my father as he passed away from the horrors only a disease like leukemia could bring. It has been 69 days since my father passed away and "Into the Mystic" still plays on repeat in my head as it re-played over and over again in that hospital room as we urged him to go, that it was OK. For those who tell me that only time will make this better, 69 days still feels like yesterday, 69 days and I am still bargaining, pleading to see my dad on the couch when I open my front door. They don't tell you that each day, the grief will hit you like a sucker punch during the most mundane tasks, or that the smallest memory will cause a hole so big you fear it will never be filled.
I never knew that in losing my dad, I would gain a family filled with people who never wished to be a part of it. We may not know each other's full names, our life story, but in just one glance, we know that somehow, this was our life story now. Watching our strong, hearty, full of life father, mother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or friend succumb to this evil disease. To see the face we have known for our entire lives dissipate into skin and bones, to watch hair disappear and to wish with everyone bone in our bodies that we could give them our strength as we slowly start to see theirs fade. It is not a family I wished to ever be part of, but it has taught me lessons that will stay with me for this lifetime.
It has been instilled in me that the things we think are earth-shattering, life-changing problems, simply aren't. Those moments come on a rainy Friday in January of 2015 in the form of "we are sorry, but the leukemia diagnosis has been confirmed." That's when the solid ground opens and swallows you and your entire family whole. Yet, it will be your dad who manages, down to the very last minute he was conscious, to say, "Well, that could have gone a lot worse." This illness will make the smallest moments, like him blowing out the candles on his 65th birthday, your dog curled up next to him keeping watch, his from-the-gut laughter at our last Christmas, feel like small miracles.
Reality has not set in on the fact that I will never get to speak to my father again, that I will never hear him ask for a cup of coffee from Starbucks in this lifetime again. Instead, I have had the chance to hear from other people, from all walks of his life, about the man he was and the stories they so generously share with me. These are the stories I hold onto for dear life, these are the stories I choose to remember, those filled with my father at his best.
On October 27th I got engaged, and my father was the first person to know and the last person who I ever thought wouldn't be at my wedding. I think as a child you view your parents as untouchable; for some reason we think they will be there with us every step of the way. It is and I believe will be, the hardest lesson I have ever been forced to learn. To me, he was my dad, supposed to be around forever, he wasn't supposed to go like this. I have to believe he is still with me, that he would not want tears to be falling while I write this, I believe he'd rather hear laughter any day.