Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sleep well, my dear daughter

The past few years have been challenging, to say the least. The security of my home and my family’s well-being was turned upside down in 2011, after I took on the care of a troubled teenage girl. My beloved dog of nearly 17 years died that year too. The following year, we learned we would lose my mother-in-law to cancer. She died a day before my son’s 13th birthday last November. My husband had a tough school year after that and that stress took its toll on us. Then, this past month a mammogram directed me to have a breast sonogram which now leads to a biopsy tomorrow. In the midst of these various cancer tests, my Dad had a massive heart attack and died. Yes, it’s been hard couple of years, but I will not say that I have had it any worse than anyone out there. We all have our battles, and my blessings far outweigh any hardship I face. I fully understand and appreciate that.

However, feelings are feelings. I have a right to feel what I feel, and I give myself permission to express those feelings as I need to. You see, those challenges I have faced, and continue to face, have taught me incredible lessons. The most important lesson I have learned is that I know who I am and what I am made of. I know that I turn to writing to make sense of my feelings. In writing and in sharing my feelings with others, I heal myself.

I also know that I am strong and I am brave. I am trusting and loving. And when I open my heart, it does not happen without full acceptance of the consequences. Do I get hurt? Of course. I am not immune to heartbreak and pain. But I am not afraid of being hurt, because I know I can work through any injury life throws at me. I am not inviting pain; it’s just that I know I must risk being hurt because by opening my heart, by trusting, and loving fully, I reap great joy and I find peace.

So why am I writing these words tonight? Well, because I promised myself that as of July 1st, I would start writing blog entries again. But I made this promise prior to the unexpected death of my Dad on June 15th. Two weeks and two days later, I see the clock and it tells me I have less than 45 minutes before it is July 2nd. I’ve been thinking of this promised post for awhile now. I tried writing it a few days ago, only the words would not come. I felt scared. Threatened. Silenced. What could I say? How could I possibly write about my loss? And if I tried, how I could I ever find the perfect words?

Today, as I drove with my husband, we talked about my Dad. My words got caught in my throat at times, but I told Eric that one thing I am happy about, is that I was always honest with my Dad. We were honest with each other. We laughed, we talked, and yes, we sometimes argued. He was bossy at times but I can be bossy too. And he knew that I was smart and opinionated just like he was. He and I had a lot in common. We were both fierce and determined to meet our goals. We worked hard but we were affectionate and demonstrative with our loved ones. And whenever I could not say what I needed to say in person, I turned to writing and I shared openly with my father. My Dad also turned to writing and he always gave me credit for the way in which he began keeping journals in the last few years of his life.

Last January I was hurting. I was completely distraught after having a bad day complete with car problems, but more than anything I was suffering from an overabundance of guilt. I wanted to do more for my Dad and yet I could not. He was caring for my Mom and it was a lot of work to do so. As I cried to myself, I heard many voices late that evening. Voices telling me not to write to my Dad, not to share my feelings with him. Voices that tried to tell me to keep my feelings away from him, to not be so selfish in putting my own troubles on him. That I should hold back and keep quiet, out of some sense of protection of him. He had enough to deal with in caring for my Mom. But as I sat with the rest of the world asleep, I trusted my gut and I wrote to my Dad. I poured my heart out to him, just as I always had. I told him about my day and of my anxiety. I told him I had always envisioned doing better by he and Mom. I finished my email letter and I shakily hit “send”. Less than an hour later, just as I was about to power down my computer and head to bed, my Dad sent a reply. His letter to me gave me absolution and reassurance for all that I was going through, for all that I was feeling. After telling me that sometimes he wonders how I do everything that I have to do, day after day, my Dad wrote: “Sleep well, my dear daughter--I love you”.

Others may judge me for being as open and as honest as I am, for sharing my heart the way I do, and that’s okay. My way is not the right way for everyone, but it is right for me. And in regards to what I am feeling now? Well, I know what I had with my Dad and I know who I am and what I am made of. I am my father’s daughter and he is proud of me. There are no perfect words for this return to my blog writing. There will never be perfect words to fully express the love I have for my Dad or for the feelings I am feeling as I mourn this loss. But I am going to continue to trust my gut and to know that my father always had my back and he will continue to understand me. No voices will convince me otherwise. I realize that I’m far from being able to say everything just right tonight. But I’m being honest. And Dad, I will sleep well tonight. I love you.

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