Updated: Jun 21
My parents divorced when I was just 7 years old. The respect between them afterward was essential for me to grow up without significant traumas. In addition, the time with each one helped me to get to know each other better and get closer to each of them in a unique way.
The only child of the two, I was able to accompany my visually impaired father, being his helper in everything. One of my favorite memories is creating a tradition of going to the beach together every year. We'd spent the day playing in the water, jumping over the waves, which grew with my age—just me and him. He loved nature, and often we would walk through parks and forests. He always asked me to close my eyes and listen. So many of the talents and personality traits I have today were planted in me by him, and his presence and teachings have always been remarkable in my life. My dad was not perfect by any means, and I always knew that, but he was present as he could, which made all the difference.
On April 24, 1996, I was working when I received the news of his sudden death due to a massive heart attack. I was pregnant, delaying the surprise, and I had missed the chance to tell him about what he always wanted, a grandchild. My hours with him at that all-night viewing were an endless monologue and tears. I believe the Spirit continues living after the death of the body, but the separation and regret of everything we had always planned to do together and did not have time consumed me.
I have no words to describe this pain, even just writing about it.
I suffered and still suffer, even after so long. I was still in my 20s which might also have limited my understanding of life and God's plan. Over time though, I have slowly learned a few things that helped me not to get depressed and keep going, which I hold on to every day, and which maybe can help someone else.
1. I learned that the world will not stop because of me
The longing for someone we love and who is part of this life is a longing that never goes away. It is also impossible to go back in time and relive the past. We only live once; the world will continue to turn, even if ours seems to have stopped for a while. The only way to overcome a loss is to keep moving forward.
2. I learned that my problems will not be a priority for the people around me.
When we are going through a difficult time, even a tragedy, it can feel surreal when other people do not understand our behavior or even understand something they are not going through. For this reason, most people will continue to move on with their lives more quickly than we do amid a problem or loss. They can give us sympathy, and it is okay if it takes us longer to beat our clock. The important thing is to keep in mind that sooner or later, we will need to do it.
3. I learned that love has no borders
I had a particular fear that when I moved away, the distance would hurt my relationships with the people I loved. Usually, we worry that lack of communication in a relationship will cause love to cool and distance to grow. But I learned the hard way that distance increases unconditional love that will never be lost in memory, time, or space. It might cool down if it's one side's feelings or forced and superficial relationships, but not those meant to last forever through time and eternity.
4. I learned that people cannot be replaced, but we can still find peace
It is a waste of time to try to justify death. Love continues. I find it funny that my dad was never very patient, and I wonder if he rushed to meet my son before me. Every time I showed my baby a picture of my dad, that little boy smiled large! He knows his grandpa and has many of his characteristics. We love different people for different reasons, but the love for those that move on to the next level never ceases. Otherwise, we live in endless misunderstanding, revolt, regret, and sadness. It may take a lifetime to recover from a loss. Still, it is my responsibility to believe in the cycle of life as a necessary step toward growth to make this life worth living, self-preservation, and inner peace.
5. I learned that there is strength in service
After my father's burial, I had to get on with my life. I'd soon have a baby to support and bills to pay. A few days after my father's death, I received a commission in my community to serve some suffering families, and I saw that I had some choices. I could spend years brooding over the pain and wondering why his loss could be the Almighty punishing me, or I could lift my head in gratitude for the time I lived with him. But then, it's time to look around and see that we are not the only ones suffering. So many people are going through sadness and despair, and if we turn our thoughts to them, we will re-evaluate our lives and find a new perspective on reconciling our souls with what matters most.
6. I learned to be grateful for everything I still have
I sincerely believe that the happiest people have learned to focus on what they have rather than what they don't have. I lost a father but gained a son, a miracle of his own. I learned of many who knew him and what he had done for them that I didn't know before. I got closer to my mom after his loss because I didn't know how long I would have her either. Appreciating those still around us will make us discover a new way of seeing life and learn to smile again.
7. I learned that I still have control of my own life.
Seeking self-control is a lifelong task. Learning to control our emotions, actions, and reactions is essential in all areas of our lives. We cannot change everything we want in life, but we can change how we react and behave in challenging moments, choosing which direction to go. Having control over your next steps, even when you feel helpless and alone, it's the art of moving on.
8. I learned that adversity is not an excuse to give up
Suffering purifies us. We learn to refine our thoughts and look at the essential things in the face of adversity. We go back to basics so we can survive the waves of uncertainty. We learn to redirect our dreams, goals, and our motivation. We can overcome the challenges, stand up after a fall over and over as a little child, even while missing the people we love but remember that we still have our own lives. It is still our responsibility to live, be happy, and fulfill our mission in this plan as they have.
9. I learned there will never be a real goodbye, only 'See you soon.'
I know that one day I will see my father again. But I also know that, in fact, he never left. How often have my son and I talked, and could we feel his presence? How precious are those moments I can write like he taught me and feel he's inspiring me? How incredible to feel him by my side in special places where I connect our souls. He will still be there even if my memory fails, and the remembrance of his presence seems so far away from my ancient mind. And so with all the people who are gone from this realm. It's only temporary. Just a "see you soon."
I still love the sea. When I have the privilege of feeling the ocean waves kissing my feet, I close my eyes, feeling the breeze and remembering our conversations, laughter, and his firm grip holding my little girl's hand so that I wouldn't drown, even if he couldn't see the beauty of the ocean. I learned I could live my life focusing on our happy memories together, and I learned and am today because of him. I can create new happy memories, passing on many of those precious teachings to my little boy, and, one day, when I meet him again, I can say that I lived and that it was and will be forever my privilege to have him in my life.
(Article written in Portuguese a few years ago.
Leia a versão em Português deste artigo AQUI.)