For the first time since the day my Dad died seven years ago, I am once again at home in Illinois on October 2nd. I am surrounded by reminders of my Dad daily. I look for something in Mom’s house and find a tool of his or a long ago picture of him. I run into people around town that tell me stories about him or that tell me how much they still miss him. For seven years I have wanted nothing more than to be surrounded by all of these people and these reminders, especially on this day, but being here is more difficult than I could have ever imagined.
Death changes those people it leaves behind. I remember Pastor Tom saying to me once that when a loved one dies it leaves a hole in your heart. Life will go on and love for others will blossom and grow within you, but nothing will ever fill that hole. The hole stays to remind us that not even death can remove our loved ones from our lives.
I can still hear my Dad’s voice. I can still see his smile. I can still remember how it felt to hug him the final time at the airport in Chicago. I even know that he visits me from time to time…a deer on the roadside that doesn’t get spooked but just stands and stares, a song that triggers a memory or a run in with a random friend at times when I need it most. These things are not coincidence. They are my Dad letting me know that he is still in my life, reminding me that he will always be there.
I changed the day my Dad died, the I didn’t fully realize it until 2 1/2 years later on my 36th birthday. Dad’s death taught me that life is short and it shouldn’t be wasted. On my 36th birthday (2 1/2 years later) my Mom drove that point home by reminding me to ask myself “Is this the mountain I want to die on?” My Dad was 57 when his life was taken without warning, but I think if you asked him that question his answer would have been “Yes!”
I’m certain that not all of my choices would make my Daddy happy. However I do know this: I live my life the way I want to live it and I make no excuses for who I am. I can tell you without a doubt, THAT would make my Daddy proud of me.
So today I remember and tomorrow life goes on because that is exactly the way my Dad, my hero would want it to be!