My Father, My Best Friend

Here I am, online in the middle of the night again. I never imagined that I would spend my evenings searching for how to cope with the loss of my father. To be honest, I never imagined that I would lose my father – at least, I never seriously thought about the inevitability that he would die.

There were times when I would lay in bed at night and think about death – I would consider the inescapable truth that I will eventually die, and I would engage in thought experiments that centered around living in a world without my father or my mother. The feeling that gave me was beyond sorrow, beyond grief (at least, that’s what I thought at the time). But then I would roll over, wipe my eyes, and comfort myself in the knowledge that I, along with my parents, had a long, long time left on this earth. I would close my eyes, surrounded by familiar sights and sounds, and smile. I found solace in the belief that when the time finally came, I would be mature enough, and strong enough, to cope with the loss.

Ultimately, these considerations, these thought experiments, would last for no more than a few minutes. They were simply too horrifying to see through to completion.

On Monday, October 10, 2011, I realized that my worst fears were legitimate concerns. I realized that my father was not destined to remain on this earth until I was emotionally mature enough to accept the loss. And really, when are we ever really ready to face the loss of a parent? Even writing this now, I’m approaching it from a distanced perspective – in a way, it’s almost like I’m going through with another thought experiment, but this time, I’m following its course to completion.

My dad was more than a father to me. He was my best friend. Honestly, I’m inclined to think that he’s still my best friend. I am one of those fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your perspective) enough to claim the title of “only child.” I consider myself fortunate, because I never had to share my father with another sibling. That’s not to say that I didn’t have to share him at all – my parents divorced when I was young, but each later remarried to individuals whom I now consider parents as well. Nonetheless, I had such a special relationship with my dad. He was able to play the roles of father and friend, disciplinarian and mentor.

If I had siblings, I think I may have been considered the black sheep of the family. My parents were both career Naval officers – I enlisted in the Army. My parents, and my dad especially, seemed to have always had their act together. And so, after falling into alcoholism and a deep depression following my first tour of Iraq, I fell from their grace. I was never cast out completely, but during those dark times, I could see the disappointment in their eyes as I got myself into trouble.

In December of 2009, something extraordinary happened. I won’t relate the full story, but will instead say that, through a most unfortunate and bizarre series of events, I felt as though something beyond the scope of human comprehension was trying to get my attention. And, whatever that force was, it succeeded in its mission. I changed my life. In a matter of days, I set aside my dependence on alcohol, sought treatment for my dependence and PTSD, and got my life on track.

Because of that, I have since lived a life of no regrets. My dad, who was as much an artisan as he was my father, friend, and mentor, would spend hours just talking with me. I write these words now from a house that he built for me with his own hands, a gift for me for the completion of my initial service contract and the start of my life as a university student.

Fallen from grace but since returned, recent times with my father have been better than ever. At 27 years of age, with a soul scarred by violence and brutality in service to this nation, I have felt like a child again. And that is because my father, the patient, kind, and loving mentor and friend that I remembered from my childhood, was there for me. And I would awe him with my accomplishments in the classroom, or my insights during our conversations relating to his post-retirement work as a government consultant. And it felt good. My dad was proud of me again.

A few weeks ago, my truck was in need of some serious service. While it was in the shop over Columbus Day weekend, I used his car. And it was because of that fact that my dad died in the place that he loved above all else – his home, his “Monticello,” as he called it.

I remember that morning – Columbus Day, 2011. I drove off to class, in my dad’s car. That afternoon, I was supposed to pick him up so that we could go and grab my truck from the shop. It was a cold day, and overcast. I drove home after a relatively short day of classes, expecting to find him in his office – hunched over in his chair, with books splayed out across his desk, doing research for his book. He wasn’t there.

I walked up the stairs of the deck that he and I built together in the summer of 2010. And, through the glass door leading into the sun room, I saw what appeared to be a pile of clothes.  Each step that I took brought his form further into focus. And each step in turn came quicker than the last.  In the space of a breath I burst into the house. It was not a pile of clothes, but my father on the floor.

Even as I had charged into the house, I had never really considered that he might be dead. My first impression was simply that Something Terrible Had Happened. Maybe he’d tripped. But in a few seconds, I knew that he was gone. I remember screaming.

That was some months ago now, but it feels like it was yesterday. I’m still in a state of disbelief. I’m writing about this as though I bore witness to the tragedy of some other poor guy who lost his dad. But I also know that this is my reality. My dad is dead. My best friend is gone.

Much happened in those first days and weeks following Dad’s death.  I experienced everything from a joyful acceptance that he’s moved to a better place, to a reluctant acceptance that all that lives must end, to a refusal to believe that my worst night-time fears had come to pass.

I miss him so badly that it hurts. Never again will I see him walk through the door to the building. Never again will I wander over to his workshop, and sit and talk with him as he worked on restoring an antique samurai sword. I will never, for the rest of my life, enjoy dinner in the company of my father, or laugh at our inside jokes, or talk about our plans for the future. I will never again, ever, be able to call him or walk to the house and talk with him – no more wisdom, no more deep conversations. Never again will I ever see my dad and be able to hug him and tell him how much I love him, and how much he means to me.

There’s so much more that I can write. In fact, my usual aversion to writing is strangely absent when I’m talking about my dad. I guess that’s the way I know our bond will never be broken, and our love will never fade.

I miss him so much.  He may be gone from this earth, but he will always be my Dad, and will always be here in my heart.

Special thanks to guest author and Hello Grief Community member Alexander G.  for sharing his story with us.

13 Comments:

  1. Jenny said on July 3, 2012 at 4:09 pm ... #

    I am so sorry for your loss and I appreciate you sharing your grief on this site. For someone that has an aversion to writing, you certainly have written a wonderful story of your life and your dad. First of all, let me say thank you for what you have done for our country. I have a son attending the Military Academy and our soldiers are always in my prayers. Losing a loved one is not easy, but as C.S. Lewis wrote, “The pain I feel now is the happiness I knew before. That’s the deal.”
    I lost the love of my life 23 months ago and the pain is still unbearable at times. I have learned in my grief journey that the pain will always be with me, but I will learn to live with it.
    I hope you will soon find more peace filled days and the memories will bring more smiles than tears.

  2. Liz said on July 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm ... #

    Yesturday was the 1 month aniversary of my dad’s death . I am a only child too and he died in a nursing home “accident” , still don’t know the details .

  3. Jamie said on July 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm ... #

    I am so sorry to hear about the lost of your father! My son lost his father on February 9th 2011. My son was only 7 when his father passed, and did not get experience his whole childhood and teen years with his father, but while his father was here they shared a bond that will outstand eternity!!! I mourn everyday on the behalf of my son because I know he will never get to go hunting or fishing, drive for the first time, or bring home his fiance to meet his dad, or share in the joy of his first born with his father at his side.However I find comfort in knowning that a piece of him will always be here because a part of him lives in our son. Remember a part of your father still lives because you were a part of him. I pray that God gives you comfort and peace that passes all understanding.

  4. Sarah Alkire Mays said on September 2, 2012 at 1:53 am ... #

    I know its after 1 am. Kids are asleep but I can’t. Its my birthday now. Last year on my birthday I took Daddy for his petscan and then we drove around the town he was born in and stopped inm some amish furniture shops. I have no desire to celebrate or even acknowledge my birthday today. I lost my best friend, my soulmate, on July 5th. I watched him die. I told him I would be ok and the kids would be ok. I’m not okay. I was googling “my dad was my soulmate”. I couldn’t find much. I guess it truly is unique to say your father was your soulmate. I miss him terribly.

  5. Regen Heller said on November 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm ... #

    Thank you, Alexander for sharing your story. I can relate to it in so many ways. I too was a single child whose mother was my best friend and mentor. I too knew that at 69, my mom would eventually die, but I didn’t think it would be for a long time to come. Mom too passed away at home. When I got the call that she was gone, I also didn’t initially think was to notify me she was gone. I thought “She had a mild heart attack or a minor car accident, right?” The future day that I was dreading and hoped would never come, came just 6 days ago. I am still in shock and find that I’ll hear or see something funny and think to myself “ooh I can’t wait to call mom and tell her this!” Then I quickly realize that won’t be happening. Will I forget her smell and voice? The look of our matching hands and eyes? I know it will be in my heart and head always, but there is nothing quite like the tangible feeling of my best friend, my mother.

  6. Jim E said on November 10, 2012 at 1:14 am ... #

    Been 3 years for me since my dad & only friend passed away in my arms unexpectedly. On the web every night fighting the urge to kill myself as we speak. I’m not going to make it much longer, no real reason to. Wish u the best as I can only share how I feel 3 yrs later. No medicine can help this pain

  7. neetu said on November 12, 2012 at 7:38 am ... #

    i am so sorry for your loss-i lost my hero-my papa, in march this year.i am an only child too,Alex,Liz & Regen,so i know how it feels.Losing one of my parents is a fear i have harboured since i was a kid.My father was the nicest person i have ever known.wish i could have taken him on more family vacations.

  8. LR said on December 15, 2012 at 11:16 am ... #

    I too just recently lost my father, one of my best friends. I was involved in his caregiving for the last 14 years, and during that time, we grew very close. He loved carpentry and any project he could “tinker” on in his barn. We were buddies, side-kicks. He was 93, but I always envisioned him living to 115! If he had, it still would have been too soon for me. I miss him so much. Dad, if you can hear these words, I love you! I’ll see you again in heaven. No doubt, God has you busy doing the things you loved to do – only now you are strong again. I miss you….

  9. Julie Bruno said on May 11, 2013 at 11:55 am ... #

    It’s been 6 months since my dad died. The gaping hole seems to get bigger every day. I miss my best friend so much. I empathise with your pain. xxxx

  10. Sarah W said on June 16, 2013 at 10:25 pm ... #

    My Dad died suddenly in 1990, when Inwas 16. To this day, I understand that I lost my very best friend, and the one person on the Planet that gave me someone to relate to, someone who was a similar personality and sense of humor. I missed out on so many things, and there are so many things in my life that I’ve gone on to accomplish, from education to a deep rewarding marriage. I realize losing my Father and my first soulmate best friend so young shaped my life in many ways. The deep impact is still there, but the grief has been replaced with joy and I wish the same to you. Someday, I hope you find peace, and rest easy knowing your Father is a part of you, always with you and as long as you love yourself, always loving you. Blessings.

  11. RW said on October 12, 2013 at 4:03 am ... #

    Death is a part of life. Embrace it. Life is short. Make the best of it now. you WILL see your Dad again. I promise!

  12. matthew said on October 23, 2014 at 10:18 pm ... #

    I am an only child and it had been my dad and I since my parents divorced with I was 13. I am now 34 and have been without my dad for 6 months. I lost him to cancer two months after his diagnoses. My mom is still around but has not been here for me and when I ask for help she tells me 3 hours is to far for her to drive. My dad was the youngest of 10 and my mom the oldest of 6 and I have had no support from any of them through any of this. It has been a nightmare. Just loosing him is more than I could handle. He was my best friend and only being 56 had so many good years left, i thought. I have good and bad days and sometimes its is hard to find a reason to go on, but I know he would be disappointed if I didn’t. I wish there was something I could do to help others with their pain and make it better. I have been finding some peace in meditation and pursuing my spiritual side. The one thing that has helped me the most through all of this is the notion that
    “our greatest accomplishments can be inspired by our greatest defeats”. if you really love the one you loose then use that pain and sadness for motivation. the lower you go the higher you can rise. the good will be that much better with having felt such a horrible loss. opposites are actually the same only separated by degrees of variance. means to me that if you feel pain from something you can feel the opposite from that same thing depending on the approach that you choose. That being said the loss of my father is possible the single most important happening in my life. If I don’t use the pain for changing my life then I fail him and myself. I know he is still with me and feel his presence from time to time. Sorry for your loss and I appologize for my rambling. try to find a reason to go on and don’t give up hope.

  13. M. said on December 7, 2014 at 12:17 pm ... #

    My father did not die yet but he will. Soon. He is a physically healthy man, in his nineties, but he is sad & tired after my mom died and wants to go too. He is my best friend. Had been all my life. I retired and moved out of my house to be with them in their last years. My mom died from Alzheimer and we both grieved together and coped with her loss for 2 years. I took care of her for 10 years. And now he wants to die too and stooped eating in spite of anti-depressive drugs. He is lucid. Has been interviewed by 2 psychiatrists. They sad he is not depressed nor senile: he has made a lucid decision and he asked me to honor that. So, he is still alive but dying. In front of me. Such an unbearable pain for me to watch him depart deliberately. I have 2 grandchildren. But nothing substitutes my fater and to mourn him alive is just unbelievable.

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