Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Marker

Before my dad went on ahead, I’d never really considered the way that the birthday of a loved one can transform from something that fills you with anticipation and excitement to something that seems so sad.  It seems so odd to me the way that happens; certainly I still want to recognize and celebrate the birth of one of the most important people in my life, even when he isn’t still here to celebrate himself.  I think for my family, the sense of enhanced sorrow and grief that comes with this week is exacerbated by the fact that it was the same week that he was diagnosed with the brain cancer that took his life only ten short weeks later.  That, as much as his absence, makes it seem counterintuitive to celebrate.

For me, in fact, it feels like salt is being rubbed into a wound, and a lot of the emotions that are usually just hanging out beneath the surface on a typical day seem to be bubbling up and threatening to erupt with the week when everything changed for my dad, for my family, and for me.  The annual marker, which I prefer to avoid thinking of as an anniversary since I tend to think of anniversaries as happy and worthy of celebration, approaches without hesitation and haunts us without regard to our ongoing pain. The week represents such a major shift - an ending of things as they were and an awareness of what should have been.

I long for just one more hour, one more conversation, one more hug, one more anything with him.  I want to push through the pain and focus on the importance of the day of the year on which the man who means so much to me came into this world; the challenge to do so is far greater than I ever imagined it would be. There are so many things that my dad will not get to experience now, things he would so love to be a part of or to know about or to see.  His presence in my life continues to shape me on a daily basis, and I do celebrate that fact as much as the grief will allow. Sometimes though, especially when I can’t avoid the what if, the should have, or the should be kind of thinking pattern, I am overwhelmed by it all, missing him so much that I struggle to move through the ache. The only thing that seems to be of comfort to me when I think about those things is to remember the life that he led that I know he considered to be a great one, to recall the way he was filled with such joy and gratitude, and to recognize the fact that I know if he knew anything at all for certain during the days of his illness it was that he was loved.  Happy birthday, Dad; you are loved and you are missed.


  1. You should always celebrate your Dad's birthday. He was a great man!

  2. Ugh. Trying to keep it together after reading this. You forget how hard some days can be b/C going through life we just "ignore" or "push away" the pain. Even if we know we will see them again one day.
    Perfectly chosen words to convey feelings that come up during those "marker" days. I couldn't have said it better, and have felt the exact same things.
    Thanks for being brave enough to share. Sometimes it's not pretty, and can be unbearably hard on those certain dates.
    Thinking of you, your sissies, & your mom this week. Your dad was a great one!

  3. This is wonderfully written Stephanie. I completely agree! You Dad was such a sweet man even though I didn't get the opportunity to know him that long. We went through something similar though not as prolonged. My Dad had a massive heart attack August 8th, he turned 56 on August 13th and was intubated that day so it was the last time we heard him speak. We lost him on August 16th. We buried him on the 19th. I struggle every year with that entire 8 day window. My poor husband's birthday is August 20th. He gets a bad deal every year, still and we lost Dad in 2006. I'm doing better at least on the 20th, but the week leading up to it is exactly like you explained. Know you're not alone!