The day started like any other with a few footsteps and whispers and the sound of my alarm clock. Of course, I didn’t get up. Do you know a single teenager who willingly gets out of bed? So instead, I tossed and turned. I buried my face beneath the blanket.
Just five more minutes, I begged. All I need is five more minutes.
A few hours later, I would regret the way I passed that morning. I would regret how I wasted those precious minutes. And while I still wanted and needed five more minutes, I no longer wanted them for sleep.
I wanted them for me. I wanted them for us.
You see, before the sun set on this day, November 16, 1996, things changed my feelings changed. Life, as I knew it, changed. Because this was the day my father “passed out.” This was the day my father lost consciousness and collapsed. This was the day his brain bled and his heart stopped. This was the day my father slipped into a coma and an unresponsive state one from which he would never return.
And while I was immediately aware of his absence and how his death meant he would never hug or help me again, and that I would never hear him talk, burp, or laugh again I never realized how his death would impact me later in life. I never considered how his passing would color every action and interaction of my adult life.
Of course, it started simply enough. In the days and weeks following his death, little things changed. I began sleeping less, reading less, writing less. I was singing less and drawing less all hobbies I enjoyed as a 12-year-old.
I pulled away from my family and friends. Why? Because I wanted to be alone. I needed to be alone, and I knew that distance would protect me. My heart couldn’t be broken if it wasn’t attached.
Despite my best efforts, love came. Love wormed its way into my icy, guarded heart, but for many months, I refused to believe it. I refused to feel it and fear kept me from acknowledging it. Fear kept me from saying, “I love you, too.”
You see, my father died when he was young less than 4 months after his 39th birthday. Now that my husband and I are in our thirties, the fear is back. Every day, I worry he (and we) are living on borrowed time.
What’s more, my father’s death has helped me to let go of the little things. It has helped me to curb my tongue when I want to scream. It has reminded me a glass of spilled milk isn’t the end of the world, nor is an oven of burnt bacon. His passing has enabled me to see opportunity in every situation. Losing my dad has put the value of every minute, and every moment, in perspective.
So while I fear pain, I fear sorrow. I fear grief and desperately fear loss. I also fear not being, not living, and not enjoying life to the fullest. But not loving with each and every bit of my heart? Well, that’s my biggest fear of all.