Thirteen years ago today I married the love of my life. I am so lucky.
It was Thanksgiving weekend. My BFF opened up her home and prepared a Thanksgiving feast – aka “Groom’s Dinner” for my entire family. (Seriously – 22 people in your house that you don’t know? Yes – she is THAT kind of awesome on a daily basis.) We got married on that Friday with a small reception at a public park lake house. On Saturday, we had a large Chinese reception. It was a cultural whirlwind of learning and love. I would not trade a single moment of it for anything.
Among the special moments that weekend, was one I will never forget. Dancing with my dad…. and then when my mom joined us on the dance floor. My dad has always been a huge part of me. I am a complete Daddy’s girl – and the baby of the family to boot. Our nicknames make sense when used together, but not separately. He and I did so many things together and I loved it all. But dancing with him? It brought me to tears.
This week my Dad passed away. It feels much like someone has carved out my chest and left a huge hollow spot that aches. Or sometimes it feels like my arms are heavy for lack of his hand to hold. And yet through the loss, I recognize my good fortune. Not only that I had such an amazing man in my life but that I was gifted the chance to see him and say goodbye. We both knew it was the last time I would see him. In fact, he passed away two days after I flew back to Seattle. Two days. And I only had two days to say goodbye the weekend before his passing.
Amazingly, he was cognizant of everything. While too exhausted to do anything else, he was able to crack a few jokes through whispered speech – at one point he even finished singing a little diddy he had always sung to me when I could not. When I left, it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I would have chosen to sit there holding his hand forever if God would have let me, but I recognized how tired my dad was and how much he had fought to be with us all along.
Those last minutes holding his hand, touching his face and looking into his beautiful blue eyes will never go away. He opened his twinkling blue eyes to tell me one more time that he loved me and that he was ‘sorry but just so tired”. I could not find the words to tell him I love him more than life itself. I just told him that I was grateful for my life with him, thank you for his love, life, laughter and lessons and that I loved him. And then I had to go.
It was the longest 4 hours on a plane that I have every experienced. Smushed up against the window and flying into the dark, wet night, I couldn’t wrap my head around anything. I am not sure I can yet.
I’ve done pretty well at work. I only lost my ability to control the tears one time. When a colleague who had met my gregarious, delightful Dad on more than one occasion acknowledge my huge loss, I felt it to my core. There was something about his eye contact that brought the tears welling up from within. And then I have to remember: how I handle this is a choice. I am grateful he did not suffer. I am forever thankful for his life. And for this moment, I will take a breath and remember to live with laughter.
That would be me. Crying on his shoulder as we danced to Louie Armstrong’s version of “What a Wonderful World”. Totally fitting that not only am I crying but that he is smiling. He always found a way to smile. It’s a choice you make, how you face life. And he *always* chose to face things with a smile, a whistle and joke.
So now, here I am. On my 13th wedding anniversary, thinking about my parent’s 55th Anniversary (this last September) and about that Thanksgiving 13 years ago when i got to dance with my dad.
I wish you all the best of memories this Thanksgiving as I relive many of mine. I am thankful for more than I can ever put into words.
May you make many happy memories -