Today would have been Dad’s 75th birthday. I haven’t been home to celebrate a birthday with him since he turned 64, and now that I’m here, he’s not. Sigh. Because we celebrated the last 10 birthdays with him over the phone or on Facetime, I wasn’t sure how acutely I would feel him missing here today – that is anymore than any other day. Sometimes my brain convinces my heart that he’s just gone on a trip for a while and I’ll be seeing him soon. Denial, it’s a difficult cloak of protection.
Turns out I miss him quite a lot.
Dad loved going for walks. He was always trying to get someone to go outside and do something with him – walking, skiing, swimming – he just wanted to be outside. Today I wanted to honour his memory by walking along the ridge by our house – one of his favourite places to be. It’s actually one of the spots where we scattered his ashes, and a place where I haven’t been strong enough to walk along since.
Today I knew I needed to walk there. To go to the place that Dad loved so much and where he found so much peace.
I stood at the spot where we had scattered his ashes. I cried for a long time. Thank goodness it’s a beautiful, warm November day or my tears would have frozen on my face and that would have made a sad situation an awkward one as well. I stood and cried and looked out at the view and just let all my emotions flow. It was both really hard and really easy. I had a lot of clarity come to me in those minutes I stood there thanking Dad for all that he had given to me.
Dad was always so good about making sure that I knew that he loved me no matter what. I never had to worry that I would ever do something that would make his love for me falter in any way. As I go through life and realize that so much of what is called love is conditional it gives me an even greater appreciation for this pure and true emotion of love. What a gift to have, what a gift to give.
I stood there and thanked God for the beautiful place we live in. Dad wanted to spend eternity in the spots he loved so deeply and being there brought me such peace and comfort.
the view along the ridge where we scattered the ashes
I walked for a while with my Dotted Dog and her Naughty Puppy Friend before getting a text from Jacob that he was on his way. He walked up and joined us and we walked the rest of the ridge together.
It was so calm and warm. It felt beautiful to have the sun shine its healing rays on us while we walked and laughed over memories of Dad. The kids miss him so deeply, he was such an important force in their lives.
Last year at Christmas Dad and I walked the ridge and for some reason decided to stop and take our first ever (and what ended up being our only) selfie. It was the last walk I took with Dad, even though I didn’t know that at the time. We had such a deep, spiritual conversation – I’m so thankful we had the time for those kinds of moments.
After I was back home, I was sitting at the table with Jenna talking about Dad. She leaned over and petted my arm and said “I bet you really miss him today”. Then she said “If it makes you feel any better, while you were out on your walk I went up to my bedroom and sang him happy birthday” and then she burst into tears. So, we sat at the table and cried for a little while. Then we found a video that she and I had made last year on his birthday wishing him a happy day. We cried some more. We did manage to keep talking through our memories until we found some that made us feel better. There are lots of good memories.
I’m pretty lucky because I had a Dad who loved life and loved to pull us into it at full force. Even when I’m sure he wasn’t interested in what I was doing he was always there to listen to me and to talk about things or to watch me do things (the hours that man spent at the side of a riding ring watching me go round and round on my horse. Both my parents spent ages in the heat or (usually) the cold watching me ride).
I work hard at continuing to walk through my grief. I miss him like crazy, but I know he would want us to jump into life with everything we have, without fear. I don’t want to deaden my emotions, I want to feel them deeply and breathe through the tough ones. If I don’t feel the sad emotions, I also won’t feel the joyful emotions. I am on this happiness journey and Dad has been a big part of that. I find happiness in new experiences and I find happiness in memories. As proof of that, my happiness moment today included remembering all the love and fun times shared with Dad, and also experiencing fun times with Jacob (and those crazy dogs) on our walk. There is more tearful happiness to come tonight as my sister and her family join us for a family supper at home.