dear dad,

my heart feels both completely broken and surprisingly full today, treading water in an ocean of grief and gratitude.

it seems impossible that a whole year has passed since you slipped away on this day, a little after noon. we were not ready; not that anyone ever is. but we thought you were beating the cancer. you thought you were beating the cancer. remember weeks before, how we’d toasted with champagne? we giggled with glee for the changing tides, for the good fortune of improving health.

and then, a plot twist: an infection from surgery worked its way into your blood stream and pulled you from our grip. just like that.

one year ago still feels like yesterday.

sometimes i still cry. big, heaving sobs with crocodile tears for dreams we lost, for the laughter i miss, for my papa-less boys, for mom’s broken heart, for words i forgot to say. people see us all looking happy, acting normal and they say “thank goodness the worst is over, thank goodness you’ve moved on, thank goodness you’re happy again.” and that is all truth, but so is the lingering, gut-wrenching grief. there’s joy and pain co-existing in this new normal. i need to honor both.

i find such comfort in the last words i heard you say, from your soul to mine, in the deep of the night. mom and kai and i slept in the hospital room, next to the bed where your tired body slept. we wanted to be rested for when you woke up. the nurses put a twin mattress on the floor, where mom and i smooshed together like sardines to catch some z’s, as you would say. i was startled awake by a hand on my right shoulder, an arm around my back. the same one that had wrapped itself around me all my life; there was no mistaking it was yours. you were still in bed, yet also with me; i had no time to make sense of it. it felt like my shoulders and back were on fire, the heat from your arm – or your spirit – was so intense. and then i heard your voice in my ear, clear as a bell, say those words i will never forget:

“i’m so sorry, liv-er. but i guess i have to go. they say i have big work to do.” 

mom suddenly sat straight up on the mattress, startled awake too, asking what had just happened. we all rushed to your bedside; you didn’t respond to our voices, our touch, our forehead kisses. maybe you were already moving to the other side before your body gave out a few hours later.

oh, dad. knowing that your spirit could catch up with mine in the still of the night fills my heart with gratitude and awe.  thank you for that one last reminder: that our connection has no limitations, physical or otherwise. i miss you with all my heart, and yet i know, really know, you are right here. hand on my shoulder. arm around my back. wrapping me in love and gently guiding, as always.  for always.

i love you this big. {arms outstretched}

your rainbow girl