Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Valentines Day was always a special day in our house. My earliest memory is of my mom giving me a life-size pillow in the shape of a doll. I loved that odd-shaped pillow and kept it well into my adult years. In college I received a yearly package from my mom on Valentines Day, filled with those addicting candy hearts, stickers, and other seasonal odds and ends. Now, my almost 4 year-old daughter eagerly awaits her holiday packages from Nana- filled with sweet treats and the stuff of childhood dreams that come from the dollar bins at Target.
On February 14th, 2011, my dad died of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After stopping treatment, we had thought his final days would be quick. They weren’t. He was still alive, and we were filled with horror and guilt. Did we make the right decision when we put him in hospice? Should we have fought harder when he said that he was done fighting? Finally, he passed. And as my mother and I drove home through the deserted streets that night, she said, “I can’t believe he died on fucking Valentine’s Day, my favorite holiday. ”
Two years later, I still find myself trying to explain things to my little girl. She is a child who knows more about death than most kids her age- having grown up learning all about her older sister who died shortly after birth, and being alive just long enough to have some memory of her grandpa. We read books about death; we read books about Valentine’s Day. We talked about going out for pastrami sandwiches on the 14th, because that was grandpa’s favorite thing to eat. We talk about being sad-but not too sad. We talk about missing him- but not too much.
I have experienced the deaths of my daughter and my dad. I love talking about my daughter- sharing her story, showing pictures of her, counseling others who have gone through a loss. I can’t talk about my dad. I can’t look at pictures of him. I can’t watch videos. I can’t read over old emails. I can’t watch my wedding video. My daughter’s death has become a part of me. My dad’s death is something my body and mind refuse to accept. Memories of him bring about a physical pain and longing.
This past year I have taken up running. I run outside, and I run a lot. My dad would have loved this. When I run, there is a moment when a great song is on and the light is just right, and I feel he’s watching me. I have to believe he is. I have to believe he is with my daughter. I have to believe he is incredibly proud of who and what I have become. I have to believe he knows that I am happy.