When I was in second grade, my biological dad passed away from sickle cell anemia.
I was always a 'daddy's girl', and my dad was a superhero in my eyes. We did everything together, and although I can no longer remember every memory of him, the ones that remain in my mind are ones that push me and inspire me to keep going even on my worst days.
Growing up without a father was hard, especially being so young. I dreaded the father-daughter dances knowing that year after year I would have to watch my other classmates dance with their fathers while sharing hugs and laughs when I was very much without one. I imagined myself sitting in the corner all dressed up in my little dress, watching everyone else enjoy the valuable time with their superheroes. The father-daughter fishing trips were me and my dad's favorite, but after he died, I hated them. Every event from then on that had the word 'father' in front of it, I wanted nothing to do with. For your everything—your rock, to be taken away from you at such a young age? Well, that changes everything.
A few years later, I finally got a father again.
Although he would never replace my biological dad, he was still a father to me—a father that I would love and cherish for as long as I lived. My stepdad pushed me in ways that I didn't know I could be pushed. He was big on "tough love" and I didn't always appreciate it at times, but his tough love is the only reason I'm stronger today. My stepdad taught me how to cultivate my talents as I grew older and put my all into everything I do. We had our moments where we disagreed, but I would give anything to have those moments back—the good, the bad, and everything in between.
Last year, I lost him too. It was sudden, unexpected, and all the more heartbreaking the second time around. Now, once again, I was fatherless—and still am to this day, but with those terrible losses, I've learned how to navigate life a little bit differently.
Losing two fathers has made me cling to my relationships with people even more tightly, loving them harder, unconditionally, and unselfishly. It has made me treat every day like it's my last, and it has made me want to eventually find a loving man who will treat me the way each of my dads treated my mother. There are so many days where I look at my phone wanting to call them and just tell them how I'm doing or ask them for life advice, but I can't. There are days when I cry because I miss their hugs and the simple sound of their voices, but more than that I miss how simple my life used to seem when they were in it. Despite how sad it makes me knowing that I will never get to talk to my fathers again in this life, because of them, I do things differently now.
Now, I put my all into my relationships with people because I never know when my last day on this earth will be, let alone theirs. Because of them, I will never apologize for how hard I love those around me, and I will forever thank them for teaching me how to love with the big heart I have.
My fathers can't be the ones to walk me down the aisle anymore, and they can no longer be my personal life coaches, but I pray that they are looking down on me from heaven, proud of the woman I'm becoming.