It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since I said goodbye. The absence in my heart still yearns louder than ever. A missing piece, forever lost and irreplaceable. All that remains are memories, ever-fading and ragged around the edges. I grasp onto them with all my might, trying to savour each one. But as time trickles by like sand in an hourglass, so do the memories I have of you.
Five years on, I still find it hard to look at old photographs without feeling overwhelmed by sadness. I tread cautiously through a minefield of memories in fear of setting off an explosion of emotions. Every reminder of your absence too agonising. Picture perfect times wrap themselves around me with comforting arms, only to be broken by falling tears, shattering my reminiscences into tiny pieces.
And yet I long to keep your memory alive. I yearn to reminisce the times we shared, minus the heaviness in my heart and with only happy tears tickling the corners of my eyes.
The truth is, I’ve been putting off writing this letter for weeks. I knew it would be too painful. But there are only so many excuses I can muster. There are only so many times I can busy myself or place fragments of reminiscences into boxes for rainy days.
Today, it only seems right to break open the box of memories that helped suture the hurt in my heart. As I sit clutching onto black and white flashbacks of days gone by, the heavens have unbuttoned and the rain crashes to the ground.
Dad, there isn’t a day that passes when I don’t think about you or wish you were still here. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t wish that monochrome memories will breathe life in a sea of colour and liveliness.
I remember the phone call that changed my life forever. Time stood still that day, or at least, it seemed to. Two words played loops inside my head, a continuous nightmare that couldn’t possibly be true.
It was true. You had cancer and you were dying.
And so the time continued to tick in a blur of traumatic events, strung together by passageways of tears, anger and grief.
You were brave and ready to fight until a scan showed there was no hope for you and chemotherapy wasn’t an option. I watched the strong man I loved and idolised fall to pieces. A shadow of the man I knew.
You gave up.
I didn’t have the words. Every time I tried to speak, I couldn’t. And yet, silence was too painful. I had never felt so helpless. I wanted to tell you everything would be okay. A reassuring hand upon your shoulder. But things weren’t going to be okay, we were losing you and I didn’t know how to console you when you knew your days were limited. How does one comfort someone who is deprived the chance to watch his grandchildren grow up? Who will never get to walk his daughter down the aisle? Who will not get the chance to live out the retirement he had planned with his wife?
I wrote you a letter, words too heartbreaking to speak. I told you I would look after mum when you were gone. I told you I would marry the love of my life. I told you that life wouldn’t be the same without you, but you’d always be in my heart. You read my letter through floods of tears; words you needed to hear but I was unable to say. You cradled them in your dying arms, forever etched into your heart.
The four short weeks to follow were the most painful we’d experienced as a family. We watched you wither in front of our very eyes. You no longer looked like the person we knew and recognised. Your body bloated, skin yellow and eyes barely alive. I watched my mum try to keep a brave front, a stark contrast to the walls that were tearing down inside of her. She was losing you; the love of her life, her soulmate and the person she planned to spend the rest of her days with. Your futures destroyed by this incurable disease.
The phone rang in the middle of the night. I already knew what news waited for me. I lost a part of my heart that day and it hurt like nothing I had felt before.
The last time I saw you was in the chapel of rest. You laid lifeless and unrecognisable. I held your body in my arms one last time and kissed your cold cheek. Tears streamed down my face.
Our final goodbye.
I walked away in disbelief that you were gone. In disbelief that I’d never see you again. The thought too unbearable to even contemplate.
People tell me that time goes on, but, to me, this is the saddest part. The thing is, for years I didn’t know how to grieve. I thought grief was an intense sadness that I could somehow push through and get past. I was wrong. Grief may change its form, but it is never ending. Like an ocean, it comes in ebbs and flows. Sometimes it is calm and soothing, other times the waves can be rough and overwhelming. A feeling of drowning in your own tears.
Your grandson looked at your picture the other day and asked me who you were. The waves of grief pricked my eyes with a thousand tears. A sinking feeling in my stomach. It is times like these when it hurts the most. In fact, every grand moment is a reminder of the loss. My wedding was a reminder of how I wish you could have walked me down the aisle. The children’s birthdays are a reminder of how I wish you got to spend more time with them. Every Christmas is a reminder of your absence. I can’t even look at a campervan without thinking about the retirement you should be enjoying with my mum.
Although the years have passed, I still think about you every day. I still long for you to come back and fill the voids you left in our lives. The empty chair. The empty space. The emptiness in our hearts.
I still see your face in a crowded street and hear your voice calling out to me…Only, I find it isn’t your voice, after all, it will never be your voice. And as I look a little closer, I realise the face I saw was just someone who looked like you, and reality reminds me once more that I’ll never see you, speak to you or hold you again.
But as much as I would like to turn back time, I can’t. Life goes on and the hands of time can only move forward. Yes, you were taken too soon, but I feel incredibly honoured to call you my father. I feel privileged to hold pocketful’s of happy memories and to have spent 23 years of my life with you.
It’s true how we don’t see the true value in something until it becomes a memory. I used to worry that my memories of you will fade, but I have realised that what we have once enjoyed so deeply, we can never lose. Those times become a part of us, forever ingrained into our hearts.
I miss your smile, your voice, your sense of humour and wit.
I miss your amazing cups of tea.
I miss the way you make everything better.
But mostly, I miss you.
You might not have a physical place in my life, but I can hear your whispers in the wind and I can feel your presence from the comforting glow of the sun.
And so I find myself peering down at old pictures, not with sadness, but with happy tears in my eyes.
Forever thinking of you,