December 7, 2002 was a muggy day. It hadn’t rained in a while and the sky seemed like it wanted to try. The gray clouds and somber sky had kept the sun hidden all day and even at lunchtime it had not peaked through with light. It was chilly, but not dry and it gave a sense of something eerie. I was 15 years old, sitting at the computer desk in our dining room on the phone with my friend Anna when my aunt and two cousins came through our front door without knocking and my whole world began to change with one look.
My Aunt Glynis asked where my mom was which I replied at her and dad’s business on the outskirts of town. She told me to get my shoes on; we needed to go to Granny’s. I can still see the fear in her eyes and hear the devastation in her voice when she said there had been an accident. My dad had been buried under concrete on his jobsite in New York and we needed to get to my grandmother’s where my uncle was on the phone with the company. I remember everything about that day, the drive I had taken so many times, I remember where I sat in the car, that both red lights in Graceville stopped, and I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think of anything but there had been an accident, and those words just kept replaying over and over as if it was spoken in a foreign language and I was trying to understand but just couldn’t.
When we made it to my grandmother’s, my mom was there, she was sitting on the floor crying, but immediately jumped up when she saw me come through the door. She hugged me tighter than I think she ever had in my life, and she said in the weakest voice I ever heard, “it’s going to be okay”, but I knew it wasn’t and I knew from her voice she knew it wasn’t either. She walked into the living room where my uncle was on the phone with the company my dad worked for and I stood there still in shock until I finally dropped to my knees and began to pray. “Father, please take the breathe out of my body and give it to my daddy”, I still remember after 14 years the prayer. It was probably the most selfless, holiest, most truthful prayer, I had ever given, but it wouldn’t be answered. My dad would die on December 7, 2002 at the age of 33. His obituary was long, his funeral packed, and the impact his death left … everlasting.
It has been 14 years since that day and I can still think about it and be taken back to that very moment, I can still hear clear as day the voices, smell the mist of rain trying to come down, and feel the gut-wrenching pain that burns your entire body. It was my first real heartbreak and even now my heart still hurts thinking about it. The first few years after my dad’s death I hated my memories and wanted nothing more than to forget all of them. I wanted to believe that if I could forget my dad and the life he built with me and my mother then the pain would go away, but in the end forgetting was more painful than remembering.
Grief is one of the hardest things a person will ever deal with. When somebody loses a significant person in their life, it changes them, as it should. However, if I have learned anything in the past 14 years it is that I was blessed. A.A. Milne wrote in Winnie the Pooh, “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. The hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life was say goodbye to my dad, but I was so blessed to have a dad that meant so much. I was blessed to have somebody to look up to, to spoil me, to love me and to make me the center of his world. I may have only had 15 years with, but they were 15 magical, wonderful, beautiful years and they helped make me who I am today.
J.M. Barrie once wrote, “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December”. Last week I went to do an interview for a feature in the paper, while there I learned that the couple I was interviewing knew my dad. The husband actually went to school with my uncle and as he smiled and said, “Your dad was the king of lay-ups. He was amazing”. That gentleman in that moment made my December. The couple continued telling me on Election Day at the polls they and some other Poplar Springs Alumni were talking about “Dylan the Great” and his amazing talents on the basketball courts. Again roses bloomed in my December. Memories are all I have of my dad and I only have 15 years, but when others share their own memories of him and when they relay stories, it brings him back even just for a short time.
Christmas is a time of presents, family, laughter, and love, but for some it’s also sadness, grief, and pain. For some this Christmas is a reminder of what they have lost. There is nothing a person can do for another in mourning except pray because during these times of sadness and loss of the only person who can comfort them is no longer on earth. So pray for God to give comfort to all those whose earthly angels have been called to Heaven. Be patient, be kind, and share memories of the deceased because one day those grieving will recognize those roses in December called memories and it will be the memories of others that will mean more than any presents on this earth. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience, and until next time have a blessed day and be kind because somebody out there is fighting a battle you know nothing about.