Grief is a complicated thing. Sometimes it’s a wave of emotion that you feel like will never subside. Sometimes it’s a dull ache or a phantom pain. Sometimes it sneaks up on you when you’re least expecting, to remind you that something you once loved is gone.
24 year old Alicia thought December 5th would be the darkest day of her life. She ran out of the ICU to the sit on the curb outside and have a moment of quiet tears away from everyone who was feeling the same grief and pain she was feeling. She gulped the fresh air after 36 grueling hours of recycled hospital air. She just needed to find the courage to keep breathing on that day when it felt like all the hope she had been holding had died.
25 year old Alicia tried to find a way to turn that dark day into something different. She tried to celebrate the memory rather than mourn the loss. She pushed through the pain and let others into her life in a way that felt foreign but also needed.
December 5th became this weird day that I never really know how to plan for. I never know what version of grief is going to radiate from my chest. There was a year that I had the privilege of standing under the Brooklyn Bridge and remember how much my dad loved that city I was looking at. Most years I put up a picture or find a way to write myself out of this funk that sets in – to remind myself that it’s okay to feel pain and okay to not feel pain.
Last December 5th I stayed silent. I was 5 months into my life in Minnesota and hadn’t let anyone in far enough to tell them what this day meant. I don’t remember fully what I actually did that day. I think I avoided most people, if I’m honest. Later that week I let one person in, I told her I didn’t know how to tell her or what to say about how I felt about it.
Because to be honest, the thing that crosses my mind every December 5th is – what would my dad think about this life I’m living? Somedays I’m sure he’d be proud of me, proud of how I’ve created a space for myself. Proud that I’ve taken adventures and lived life as fully as I can. Other days I’m more realistic with that question – he would have no frame of reference for this life I’m living.
On December 5, 2009, not only did I lose my dad. I lost the hope of a restored relationship. The ugly truth of our broken relationship was that for the two and a half years prior to his passing, we hadn’t spoken much. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had hope that we could eventually get past it all and move forward. But we didn’t get that chance.
My dad never knew what it meant for me to be a youth pastor.
He never saw me get my masters.
He didn’t help me move into any of my apartments.
He didn’t see me get ordained – although I honestly can’t even imagine what he would have thought of that.
So 33 year old Alicia is angry and frustrated at this broken world and that awful disease of alcoholism that robbed her of a future where she gets to have an adult relationship with her dad.
This year December 5th comes more bitter than sweet. I will try as I do every year to remember happier times, to remember the things about him that I loved so deeply. But I also know that this year I mourn a little deeper that I can’t share any of the beauty I have in my life with him. Because while I don’t know what my dad would have thought about my being ordained or being a youth pastor – I do know that he would have been over the moon to see how happy I am.