My father became ill when I was 26 years old. After years with Type 2 diabetes, he was diagnosed with fourth stage kidney disease. He began taking at home dialysis in July 2017, which helped for a while, but as his disease progressed, it became less efficient. Month after month went by, and my father-- my sounding board and hero, was becoming more fragile. I cannot even explain what this feeling is like and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.
He was rushed to the hospital January 31, 2019 in the middle of the night, where doctors determined he had suffered a heart attack. What we didn't know at the time was that he also had heart failure and wouldn't come back home. He had emergency surgery, where they implanted two stents. I spent my 30th birthday (Feb. 9) in the hospital with my Dad. He spent another two months in the hospital, where he made little progress. In April 2019, he went to a local nursing home due to his pitiful condition. May 13, 2019, he was taken to the hospital once again from the nursing home. He spent ten days in the hospital, where he didn't improve. The doctors gave him pill after pill, sent him to hemodialyisis, and called these methods "life sustaining". He was miserable and in so much pain. He decided to make the move to hospice, which was only two floors down in the hospital. He passed away May 25, 2019 in the wee hours of the morning. What I'm about to tell you is how my life changed after my father passed and what I learned in the process.
1. Almost one year later, it still doesn't seem real. I was in the hospital for two weeks with my Dad and have never cried that much in my life. The best way I can try to describe it is like being stuck in a bad dream; you know it's happening but you can't truly believe it. By the time the funeral came, I couldn't cry anymore. I was numb. Almost one year later, it still doesn't seem real. There are times when I hear certain songs or see something that reminds me of him, and I fall apart.
2. People will sympathize, but will forget after a while. Once you go back to work, people will check on you for a day or two, but expect you to move on like it never even happened. Everyone goes about their lives, and you're the one still grieving. No, the world does not revolve around me and I don't expect everyone to drop what they're doing. But lending an ear on occasion and showing you actually care is another story. Friends will either do one of two things: They will cling to you or run for the hills. I promise you, no matter how close you think you are to someone, they may treat you as if you have a contagious disease and distance themselves from you. It is so hurtful, but you learn who your real friends are.
3. The world as you know it will change. Many things just don't matter to me anymore. I know I am forever changed because my father passed at such a young age, and I see the world differently. I no longer try to mend one-sided friendships. I have always been the friend who reaches out first and initiates plans, but I grew tired of it and deleted those people from my life. And guess what? They haven't bothered to reach out. Growing up as a shy child, I was also passive and let people run over me. I've finally grown a backbone and I don't let people run me over anymore. I cherish the friendships I do have and make a point to be a better friend, daughter, sister, aunt, and granddaughter.
4. No one truly knows how you feel. People will say they do. I can truly appreciate their empathy and I sympathize with their loss as well. But everyone grieves differently. I am the baby of 2 children and my middle name is the same as my Dad's. He never had any boys, so he named me after himself. My Mom was married to my Dad 44 years; just two months shy of their 45th wedding anniversary. I cannot imagine how she feels, and half the time I know she is only trying to be strong for my sister and I. Most of the time, we don't talk about it. You grieve how you grieve, and it comes in waves at the most random times. Just this morning, I cried at my desk just thinking about how much I miss him. That feeling won't ever go away, and no one can tell you otherwise. I'd give anything just to hear his voice, laugh, or hear him tell one of his corny Dad jokes.
5. It is the most soul-crushing and gut-wrenching thing I have ever experienced. I am 30, almost 31 now, and I put my career ahead of my personal relationships. I'm still single with no children, but I don't feel like I have missed out. I certainly want those things, but maybe not for a few more years. The most heartbreaking thing is my Dad won't be there to walk me down the aisle or meet my future children. There is an empty feeling inside of me knowing no one or nothing can replace him. My uncle has agreed to walk me down the aisle and while I am happy he has agreed to fill my Dad's shoes, it still isn't the same.
6. Life as you know it will never be the same. I took for granted all the years I thought I'd have with my Dad and looked forward to him befriending my husband or spoiling my children. Watching a person you love so much wither away is not explainable. I was with my Dad up until he passed, and spending those moments with him in the hospital is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. He was talking, laughing, and reminiscing about old times. It truly is the little moments in life that mean the most. I am so fortunate to have spent these moments with him and tell him goodbye. Though gut-wrenching, I got to tell him everything I wanted to before his passing. I wish life could've been different and he could still be here with me, but life doesn't work that way. There are times when I want to call or text him and realize I can't. I don't think that's a habit I will soon break. Life just isn't the same, and never will be. One thing to take away from this is that life is so very short (I need a daily reminder also), and as long as you and I have breath, we should enjoy this life we have been given. Cherish your loved ones and hold them close. Tell them how much you love them and don't take them for granted.
I love you and miss you so much, Dad.