My life changed completely one year ago. But it has only been by God's Love and Grace that I can honestly say that I am in the best place I have ever been - mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
As the 1 year anniversary of my dad's death is fast approaching, it is also coming up on the 1 year anniversary since my old self, the Christina that I was for over 26 years, also left. And in her place was born a woman with an incredible amount of courage, strength, dignity, perseverance, and love. A woman I never knew existed. A woman that I had always hoped was inside me, but I guess it took a very specific set of circumstances to raise her up.
They say that everything happens for a reason. I have always tried to believe this, but the way everything worked itself out this year, I know that it must be true. My dad's dreams, hopes, and prayers for my life started coming to fruition just before and after his death. So in a lot of ways, I feel like I have him to thank. I know life's circumstances are ever-changing and consistently inconsistent, but the security and wholeness that I have felt makes me feel consistently strong and capable.
68 love notes.
The most humbling, yet surprising thing that happened this year. Tucked away in a large yellow envelope in a box of my old belongings from my dad's house were 68+ love notes handwritten from my elementary school age self to my dad. Notes from a little girl to the first love of her life. He had saved every one. These notes saved me.
Throughout my life, my relationship with my dad was unstable. I felt insecure a lot. I always wanted for him to be happy. He was in pain, and I could never change that. Something I know in my heart was never my responsibility, but something I still struggle with to this day...wishing my dad had lived a happier life. I felt that he had experienced a lot of residual pain from the divorce with my mom and not being able to live with me growing up. Because of these thoughts, I partly felt responsible for his happiness, I guess you could say. My emotions towards my dad were conflicted. I felt so much love for him, yet at the same time, I felt like something was wrong and could never really put my finger on it...
But I tried. I tried to be patient and loving. I tried to set boundaries where I felt they were needed. I saw different therapists over the years to try to make sense of my own personal struggles...I tried. Even though many days I wondered if I could have or should have done more.
When someone you love dies, you wonder if you loved them enough. If you told them that you loved them enough. If you really did all you could to nurture the best with relationship with them.
Each note contained an immense amount of unconditional love. Each one read bringing me more and more peace that I had done all I could. That I really did love my dad to the best of my ability. I had no idea that writing so many notes would actually bring me the comfort and peace I would ultimately need to get through the loss without questioning. I didn't know at the time what I was doing. But God did. And I thank my dad for saving them. They mean more to me knowing that they meant so much to him. Enough for him to keep them all. Enough to save them for me.
On my dad's deathbed, 1 year ago today, I had that overwhelming peace that I had done all I could. The last meaningful conversation he had with someone after receiving the news from his doctor that he only had a few days left was an apology to me for everything he had put me through.
With my head in his tired lap and his arm around me he said, "I'm sorry for all the bullshit I put you through. My only regret is not spending more time with you."
I told him that I forgave him.
And shortly after these words, his mind began to drift off to a place far away from here. His soul being held and carried by the Creator of the universe, leading him to a place of infinite peace and love. A place that could offer him so much more than this earthly world ever could.
And less than 12 hours later he was gone. A lifetime of struggles. 13 months of fighting cancer. A life lost. But some peace was found in knowing the pain was gone and the fight was over.
To be honest, I still can't wrap my head around it.
A thought that gives me peace though is that my dad was like the genie from Aladdin...in leaving this world, he was finally set free...free from all the burdens, heartache, and stress from this life. Free to just be. And to be with God.
Despite the intermittent grief that still comes, my life is good. God has blessed me abundantly. So much so that I feel almost no worry at all about anything.
In the spring of 2015, I started taking anxiety medication a few months prior to my dad's cancer diagnosis for a sleep disorder. Something that helped me so much going through all the trials and loss these past couple years. However, I am so pleased to be off medication as of this month. An accomplishment I was complacent to never reach. But it feels good.
Now, to take my mind off the grief, I am beginning to prepare for Christmas and the holiday season. It's actually the first year in almost a decade that I am looking forward to celebrating instead of grieving over the loss of something.
It feels so good to feel so free myself.