How grieving my father’s death put life into perspective, and why I am choosing to live unapologetically from now on.
Time is a funny thing. We often wish it way, waiting for the days to pass until we can enjoy the weekend, or hoping weeks fly so we can get to our vacation. But then when somebody close to you dies, we just wish for that time back.
Of course, the past two years have been all about us wishing this pandemic would be over and we can get back to our “normal” lives. Whatever that is!
Sadly may of us are not coming out of this unscathed. We’ve lost people. Things have changed. We’ve shifted our perspective on life. Tragedy has changed our outlook and it may be too late to go back.
The phone call
Before 7am on a Saturday morning last October, I was woken up by a phone call. One that would change my life forever. I didn’t quite believe when I heard he was gone. I felt like I was still in a dream. Actually, more like a nightmare.
But it was real. My dad’s gone. His heart stopped in his sleep and he was gone. I tried to catch my breath, but I knew my life would be changed forever. And I had no choice but to move forward without him and live while grieving my father’s death.
You see, my dad was one-of-a-kind. He could be larger than life, but preferred to stand back and let my mother, or me shine. He hated when you made a fuss over him, but lived to do fun, little things for you.
I get my gift of connecting people from him. He had that ability to find something in common with everyone that crossed his path. And when he did, he never forgot it. I mean, who doesn’t love it when somebody makes that kind of connection with you?
He loved to tell stories, and he laughed when he told them (over and over, sometimes!) Stories were embellished sometimes, and would laugh even harder if you called him out on those little white lies. He loved to drive, creating himself little shortcuts (that weren’t that short), while he blasted his oldies music and tried to avoid the cottage-country traffic.
My dad had a humble life, immigrating to Canada before he was a teenager. Dropping out of school, like most kids his age did at that time, he found a job in order to make money to help his family. The oldest boy of 5 kids, he was dedicated to always doing his best to help his parents and his siblings. And he met my mom at the ripe age of 23 and they were married a year later. They celebrated 51 years together.
Being a husband was one of his favourite things. He loved my mother so much and he wasn’t afraid to show it to everyone. And he did the same thing as a father too.
I know how lucky I am. I know my father loved my mother, and showed me what a healthy, loving and equal relationship looked like. I’m a daddy’s girl, because he showed me love, always. When it comes to dads, I won the jackpot! He was wrapped around my finger, and he knew it. And owned it!
There is something so profound in knowing that I never had to question his love for me. It’s beyond amazing to know that he would support me no matter what decisions I made in life. I am honoured to know that I made him so proud.
I’m a lucky girl.
My kids are lucky to have had a nonno (grandfather) like him. He loved them so much it filled the room. He would do anything for them. Between the little inside jokes they shared, to the twinkly in his eye he had when he saw them and spent time with them, you can’t help but be in awe of those kids of relationships.
Husband. Father. Nonno. These were his favourte jobs in the whole world.
This man left a mark. On everyone. His biggest laughs, his favourite stories, his shortcuts and his favourite recipes. From the movies he quoted to the songs he sang out loud, this is what he left us with. But the biggest lesson is to live life with no regrets. Make a choice, a decision; choose a path and then stick to it. Know you belong and don’t look back. Live unapologetically. Nobody has time for regret! And that includes my dad!
The only regret I have is time. Wishing we could have spent more time laughing and sharing stories than facetiming or speaking across the driveway because we had to stay two-feet apart. Sometimes I wish I called the night before to say hi. I wish he would get to see my kids grow up. Hold my mom’s hand a little while longer. Grieving my father’s death has left me feeling some regret for how I handled certain moments, or situations.
Grieving my father’s death and looking forward
But I can’t change time. I can’t go back. So instead I’m looking forward.
I’m going to take a cue from my dad and live my life. Choose a path and stick to it. Love my husband fiercely and show it to the world. My kids will always know that I love them and will one day see that was the driving force behind decisions I’ve made for them, and for us.
I will do my best to support my mom, and while I can’t replace his love, she will know she isn’t alone.
I’m not apologizing for creating boundaries for myself. I won’t accept people in my life who don’t make it better. I will love how I love and never change that.
There will always be an empty place in my heart. He is always on my mind and I’ve caught myself more than a few times thinking I would call him to tell him about a recipe I made, or a movie I just watched that I think he would like. But instead, I tell him in my thoughts. I talk to him in private.
I vow to keep his memories alive. But I also have to keep going. Grieving my father’s death is heavy. It’s hard to move and feels like a heavy blanket. He’d hate that I feel weighed down. He would want me to keep it moving. And some days, when it feels the hardest, is when I pull out an old memory; imagine his squinty eyes when he laughs, or recall some of his favourite stories and it fills me up again to keep moving forward.
Life is precious. And sadly it takes losing someone to put that into perspective sometimes. But it’s also a gift. And if you’re like me and lucky enough have felt loved by somebody so important in your life, it can be just what you need to live unapologetically.
Happy birthday, daddy. We miss you everyday, but are feeling it especially today. We will celebrate you and know you are with us always.
Want to read past stories about my dad? Check these out:
Please consider making a donation to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada in my father’s honour.