My best friend said something to me recently over the phone that has stuck with me ever since she said it. Kristi and I talk often and have been friends since we met during the first grade in Scottsdale, Arizona. We have a lot in common. Mostly these are happy similarities. For instance, we married good friends, we now live in Tampa and are both busy raising a son and daughter.
Unfortunately, we share another event in common. We both lost our fathers suddenly. It’s been a long time since my dad died in a car accident on his way to work almost twenty years ago. Kristi’s father died of a heart attack three years ago. As I was weeks away from giving birth to my daughter, Phoebe, Kristi was getting on a plane by herself to go across the country to Arizona, hours after receiving the devastating call from her mom.
The roller coaster of grief is a painful ride. It was heart breaking witnessing Kristi go through the initial shock and rawness of losing someone she loved. She would ask me in the beginning if time really helped heal the pain, and I told her it would certainly assuage the rawness. However, as many of you know all too well, the pain sticks around. Sometimes something triggers us seemingly out of nowhere, and grief gets a hold. The ride starts all over again. I have learned the only way to deal with this is to give it the attention it demands and so rightly deserves.
So a few weeks ago as we were chatting, she brought up her father, so I took a deep breath and listened. She prefaced what she was about to say with, “Okay this might sound really weird.” She spoke of how happy she feels these days. She went on to say that at times she feels happier than she did years ago when her dad was still around. I knew exactly what she meant because I feel the same way.
Happiness lives side by side with sadness, and I think this is only possible because of gratitude. When life changes in an instant, it affords us the opportunity to look around at all there is to be thankful for. Now, more than ever, we both feel really fortunate to have had fathers who loved us so much and are still very much a part of our lives. I think perhaps we even appreciate and understand our fathers in a way we couldn’t have when they were here.
This kind of gratitude is so big and all encompassing. It causes tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. It is this kind of gratitude for knowing deep down inside that as awful as death can be, life is its constant companion. Something beautiful is not even right around the corner but is right here, right now sitting next to us.
It can be hard to let go and accept what is. However, maybe it helps to know that no matter what, there is always – even if it’s as small as a little blossom on a plant outside the window – something to smile about. And for that I feel limitless joy and infinite gratitude.
As I miss my dad today, I think of something my son, Will, my Dad’s namesake, said when he was about four. I had accidentally shut the car door on one of his little fingers earlier in the day. When I asked him if it still hurt, he looked up at me with his big hazel eyes and said, “All I feel is Love.” And love never ends, it goes on and on and on.