On a still, snowy day in February, I lost the only man I've ever truly loved. I lost my mentor. My role model. My rock. My anchor.
His battle with cancer was short-lived but hard-fought. The entire time he was sick, his main concern was us. That we didn't stop living our lives. That we didn't make cancer the major part of ours. That we didn't let it ruin our lives, since it was already ruining his. The night he went into the hospital for the last time, he practically shoved my mom and I out the door.
"Go out. Enjoy yourselves. HAVE FUN. And don't text me. I'll be fine." My sister stayed with him that evening and kept everything quiet. Because my dad would have killed her if she texted us when he fell the first time. And the second. He was fighting a losing battle, and he knew, but he only cared about us.
When we got home, we didn't know just how bad it was. We didn't know that within 24 hours, we would lose the most important man in our lives. He didn't pass 24 hours later, not physically. But he went away that Saturday and never returned. We never got our daddy back.
On Wednesday, February 3rd, he took his last breath. We stood around him and held his hand. I watched the strongest man I ever knew struggle to take one last breath, slowly, as if saying "thank you and goodbye".
It's hard to explain the crushing emptiness I felt in the days that followed. Every single morning that week I woke up and had to remember that he was gone. Every single morning I still wake up and am hit by a wave of grief as I realize he's not there.
It's hard not to focus on all the things he will never do. He will never walk me down the aisle. He will never be a grandfather to my children. He won't be at any more birthdays, or Christmas, or big celebrations. I can never call him to help me with a flat tire, or put together my Ikea furniture, or go for a walk with my dog. There will be no more Sunday dinners, no more family trips, no more bear hugs.
These past few weeks have been surreal. I know it hasn't fully set in yet, and I know the day it does is going to kill me. But every day gets a little bit easier. Every day, I get a little bit stronger. Every day, I move forward just a tiny bit. My dad would haunt the shit out of me if I didn't. I can hear him telling me to move on even now.
Nothing prepares you for your father's death. But I take solace in knowing I got to say goodbye. Not every one gets that lucky.
There will forever be a hole in my heart; I will never be able to fill it and I don't want to try.
My dad has not passed, because he will never really be gone. Half of him lives in my sister, half of him in me. He's in every cup of black coffee I drink, every snorting laugh I make, every recipe he wrote down, every song he sang. He's the curl in my sister's hair, the bright blue of our eyes, the kindness in our hearts. As long as we keep him alive in our hearts and our thoughts, he will never leave us.