Father(less) Day

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I’m no expert on grief, but I have been through my fair share.  When I was seven, my next door neighbor and friend, Mrs. Edwards, died from cancer.  In third grade, my cat Garfield died.  I lost 2 friends in high school.  Great-grandparents … and eventually grandparents.  But by far the most significant loss was the death of my father when I was 32 years old.  He was only 64, and it took 4 hours to go from “your dad is having some heart pain” to “he’s gone”.

It’s been seven years since I lost my dad, and I have been on quite the journey.

When the first anniversary came up, I didn’t know what to do.  I stood in the corner of the living room, petting my cat, crying.  I just wanted my dad back.  My husband suggested we light a candle and recount memories.  As we sat on the couch, tea candle burning before us, we reminisced.  It felt good to remember him.  Then I got hit with the reality that the candle in front of me would burn out … its light going out just as my father’s had … which brought so much pain.

For the first few years, any sadness I experienced somehow connected itself to the sadness of losing my dad.  I vacillated between wanting to make the most of every day, in case it was my last, and not caring what happened because if I died, I wouldn’t know what I’d missed anyway.  I experienced deep fears of losing my mother or husband and had moments of recklessness with the thought “if I die, at least I’ll be with my dad”.

Two years after my dad died, I lost my maternal grandfather and was with him when he passed.  I didn’t get to be with my father, but being with my grandfather was an unexpected gift.  Losing my dad had been frightening, made me question God’s goodness and love.  Being with my grandfather was beautiful and full of grace.  My grandfather was ready; he wanted to go Home.  I asked him to say hi to my dad for me.

A friend who had also lost her dad shared that somewhere around the five year marker, she experienced a shift from the identity of “my dad died” to “I’m my father’s daughter”.  Where there had been mostly pain, now there was deep identity.  I am happy to say I experienced a similar shift.  I still cry and miss my dad.  I would much rather have him here.  But I can see God’s grace over the years.  Ways He has grown me, strengthened me, softened me.  He truly does use all things for the good of those who love Him … even when the pain of the journey doesn’t feel “good”.

On the seventh anniversary of my dad’s death, I shared this on Facebook:

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Seven years ago today, my dad died fairly suddenly. And my whole world changed. I lost trust in myself. In my giftings. In the security of the world around me. I felt surrounded by sadness and uncertainty.

In those seven years, I have grown and changed and challenged myself. I have tried and failed and succeeded and found grace for myself ... to be human ... to be flawed. I have learned that it’s not enough to just be reliable for others; I need my team so that I too may rely on others. It’s okay to need.

I have traipsed through the valley, covered in mud, fighting against a strong wind. I have climbed up the steep mountain, with a staff in my hand, cloaked in love and support. I fell and got back up. I sat down, defeated, and along would come a fellow traveler, unwilling to let me give up. We walked together for a time.

I have been weary, and I have been elated. Such is the game of life.

Here I am, seven years later, a changed woman. I wish I could show my dad the woman I am today, but I’m afraid his leaving was what I needed to send me on this journey.

I am thankful for those who have journeyed with me. Who have picked me up when I couldn’t keep going. For those who went ahead of me and encouraged me. For those who spoke hard truths to a weary soul when I questioned everything.

My heart is tender. Thankful. Open.

I stand on a mountain top and am overwhelmed by the beauty I see. I am truly humbled.

 

I have lived seven Father’s Days without my dad.  Some I wanted to ignore.  Others I wanted to remember.

I have seen my dad in dreams in the years since he died.  In some, I know he’s dead.  In some, he has come back.  Some seem so real that when I wake up, I expect to be able to talk to him on the phone, see him when I visit my mom.  Though I do not think of him every day, he will always be a part of me.  Who he was helped shape who I am.  I am Mike Taylor’s daughter.  And nothing in the world can take that away from me.

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Jill Taylor Anthony was born and raised in Broken Arrow, OK, and is a New York City-based actor. She lives with her husband, Judah, and their two cats, Max and Oliver.

www.JillTaylorAnthony.com