I lost you exactly one year ago, although I remember all the details of that awful day like it was only yesterday. I remember how much you hated having that tube down your throat, the way it looked like you were trying to chew it away, and how you swatted at my hand as if to say, "get this thing out of me!" You were ready to go that final morning I saw you, although I sensed that you already were months before, even before you got sick. You always sounded happy to hear my voice when I called, but I knew you were ready even then. Some things a daughter just knows, especially a daughter who is so much like her father.
I remember still how quick it all happened, how fast my sisters and I ran upstairs from the coffee shop when the nurse phoned to say you were crashing. I remember how we got to your room and it felt like only a second had passed when the doctor slowly shook her head sadly, to let us know you were gone. I will never forget how T and I cried and hugged each other so, so tight, as if to keep our hearts from falling out of our chests and tumbling to the floor, splattering like mud.
I don't think I will ever forget watching from a corner while the two nurses cleaned you up and swaddled you ever so gently. You looked so tiny, dad; it's amazing how small someone larger than life can look when all the life has been drained out of him. I don't know why I can remember following them through the halls, down the elevator, along the quiet, hidden caverns of the hospital that only the dead and their handlers make their way through; I was in a quiet, numbing daze as my brain kept screaming. When they placed you on that metal bed inside the cold chamber I wanted to shout, wait! I wanted to throw a thick blanket over you; I know how much you hate the chill, how it makes your bones hurt.
Once in a while I think about my last words to you that morning, when your eyes were closed as you were trying to get some rest. I wonder if I said enough, if I told you all that I wanted to say. I think I covered the basics: I love you, I forgive you, I thank you, I love you, I'm letting you go now. I made you a final promise, which I kept and will keep my entire life, I know it gave you a bit of peace you needed. What I didn't get to tell you then is that I needed to keep it, too, not just for you but for me also.
It's both funny and sad that we learn so much more about our loved ones only after they're gone. I wanted to hear everyone's stories about you, but I also discovered parts of you from all the things you chose to keep. It's as if you felt that throwing them away would have been like discarding different pieces of you. Some of what I found, I admit, were painful; some even made me angry. What I wasn't ready to find was that all these parts and pieces I found in myself, too. I spent a lifetime trying to find answers about you, when all I had to do was look deep inside myself. I was like you, too.
But you knew that already. You used to say that to me even when I was little, when I didn't understand what you were trying to say. I think I finally understood when you told me the reason you didn't want me seeing this one stupid boy was because I was as sensitive as you were and you knew I'd get hurt. But it wasn't until you passed away that I discovered I was also just like you when I'd get hurt: I'd push back, as if to make the pain go far away, when all I truly wanted was to pull that person toward me and find peace from forgiveness and reconciliation. But now I understand why it was that you seemed to be able to forgive so readily, and yet at other times hold a lasting grudge. It all depended on what the other was willing to do.
Oh dad, if only you knew what I'd give to have just one more time to talk with you at the dinner table, after the plates had been cleared away, and no one else was listening. I probably would still say I love you, I forgive you, I thank you, I love you. You have given me everything I need to go through this world and find my place within it, and I am OK now.
But I don't know if I'll ever truly be ready to let you go. I miss every little thing about you every single day, and I cling to objects and memories, anything that reminds me of you. Even our occasional fights, that were always huge and dramatic, and utterly teleserye-worthy -- but only because when we made up I felt we loved each other more. When our love for someone transcends anger and hurt we find forgiveness and eventual peace.
My love for you gives me so much peace, dad. And for this reason I know it will always be the purest kind of love I will ever know. I hope that wherever you are now, you are smiling. In my mind no one smiles quite like you do.