Five years have passed by so very quickly. And yet, every July 3, I recall that day, vividly.
I recall the surreal, foggy morning in Saugatuck. I was camping with my friends, and decided to call my dad for the first time that weekend. The calls went unanswered. I recall seeing “The Devil Wears Prada” with my friends because it had rained that morning, and not being able to enjoy the movie because I kept checking my phone to see if he had called me back. And then, after the movie, getting the news that tore through my heart.
The ride back to camp, and arriving to find my tent taken down and my car already packed. I will never, ever forget the kindness and love from my friends as they worked so hard to get me out of there as fast as possible.
Getting my friend Rafael to drive my car so I didn’t have to drive it myself was another blessing. I don’t remember much of anything from that trip. I just wanted to get home.
Sitting in my mom’s kitchen that night, hearing fireworks going off in the distance. The low thuds of each explosion marking the celebration of the holiday that was, on that day, dead to me. What was there to celebrate? I was mourning. Independence Day would never be the same for me, and hasn’t since.
The planning, meetings, dinners brought by from friends and family. Lots of decisions, and lots and lots of tears. That was all part of it, too.
As rough as that day and the days that followed were, it somehow made our family that much stronger. We never broke under the pressure and kept on going.
There was immense sadness, but also immense relief. Dad had suffered for so long, and by the end of his life was so miserable, that he made us miserable, too. I guess what kept us going (and sane) through all of that was knowing that he was finally at peace. And consequently, we, too, were at peace.
I wrote about all of this five years ago, so I don’t want to re-hash every detail… but in the five years that have passed, so much has happened. My nieces were born, and have given such joy to our lives. How I wish he could have met and known Abby and Emily. Part of me believes he does know them, and is watching over them closely; but had he been alive to meet them I know he would have loved them dearly.
But on the other end of the spectrum, my uncle– my dad’s brother– is nearing the end of his battle with cancer. Unlike dad, his suffering is lingering. I hate what’s happening to him, and how cancer has robbed him of not only his ability to live his life, but his will to live. Once again, when the time comes, we will have sorrow, but also thankful he is no longer suffering.
So this year I am spending the holiday with my family. I’m sure we’ll share some tears, but many more happy times. And we will celebrate Independence Day. Because although I thought it was dead to me five years ago, eventually, I have to move on.
Dad, wherever you are– I love you. You’ll always be in my heart.