For the past eleven years, my dad has been physically gone from this earth. In these years, so many things have happened that my dad would have given anything to be here for. I have had piano recitals, chorus concerts, and musicals – I know he would have been my biggest fan. I’ve had proms, homecomings and galas – I know he would have been excited to meet (and possibly harass) my dates, I know he would have told me I looked beautiful. I’ve had graduations from high school and college – I know he would have been overwhelmed with pride. I’ve gotten my first “real” job, and recently bought my first home – I know he would have been overjoyed to see me succeed.
On all of these “big” days in my life, I’ve been aware that someone was missing. I’ve thought about and wished he could have been there, but I never really had time process that there was always a void. I was caught in a whirlwind – practicing songs, doing my hair, and looking for the tassel I was supposed to have on my graduation cap, and trying to find everything I needed to sign my closing papers. I was focused on what I had to get done, not to mention the rest of my family and friends who surrounded me. This certainly didn’t replace the presence of my dad, but oddly enough these things allowed me to completely escape the truth that there was an absence in these moments.
To be honest, I’ve always found myself missing my dad more in the little things. I’d come home from college, and imagine what it would be like to sit at the kitchen counter with my dad late at night, drinking tea in our pajamas and having an adult conversation. I’d think about how much he loved college football, and how he would have become a huge Hokies fan upon my decision to go to Virginia Tech, and come to as many games with me as he could. The every day events are where I have always found myself missing him, until I became an observer of the big events for other members of my family.
My youngest sister was only 5 when my dad passed away. I know it is harder for her to remember him, and even though I feel that I’ve missed out on so much by not having him around, I imagine she feels that way even more. My sister is gorgeous, talented, and exceptionally mature for her age. She is 16 now, and is hitting a point in her life where lots of her big events are occurring. I, now the outsider, have watched her on these days and wondered if she, like I, is far too busy to have a moment to stop and think about what’s missing.
I first experienced this a couple months ago. My sister is an incredibly talented designer, and designed and sewed an entire fashion line for her school’s fashion show. She hadn’t shown me any of her pieces, as she wanted it to be a surprise when we came to see the show. When I saw her models walk onto the stage, my jaw dropped – I could hardly believe the masterpieces that she had created. I cheered so loud when she came out to receive recognition for her work, and cheered even harder when she accepted the award for Best Fashion Line, agreed on unanimously by the judges. I was overwhelmed with pride in a way I had never experienced.
That night we went out to celebrate, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I actually think I started to drive my sister crazy with how many times I said how happy I was for her. At one point I stopped to reflect on the evening, and all the work she had put into this event in the months leading up to it. And I realized that this pride I was feeling, this insatiable desire to brag about her and tell her how talented she was, was probably nowhere near what my dad would be feeling on this night. Like I said, he was our biggest fan.
I started thinking about how much it might mean to her to hear all these things from him. I know that my dad would have showed up for the show with flowers for her, he would have cheered even louder than me, and he would have gone into work the next day with pictures of her fashion line to show to his coworkers and would tell them how amazing his daughter is.
I know that this night was the first of many times I will experience this, as my sister has a slew of big events ahead off her yet. I recently sat in her room while she was getting ready for her first prom. As she curled her hair and did her makeup, I talked with her about the events for the evening, from dinner to the after party. We walked downstairs together, where friends and family were gathered to see her off. Our dad’s best friend teared up, as he often does at events like this, and told her how beautiful she looked. Again, I thought about how much it would mean for those words to come from her father.
After my dad died, I started to realize that there would be big and little events that he would miss in my life. I could count a thousand moments when I’ve felt his absence so strongly that I couldn’t speak or think about anything else. But recently, when I experienced my sister’s shining moments, I realized that I felt the absence of his presence even more.
Sometimes it is even more painful to feel the ache of loss on behalf of another person you love. I would give anything for my sister to have her dad there for these events in her life, but I know that we share the bond of knowing that taking even a moment to remember him keeps him close to us, and that his spirit is with us on these days.