One year ago, today, we lost my Dad.
Losing someone you love is an inexplicable experience; no two people experience the loss in the same way, nor do they navigate the aftermath on a set schedule. Grief is a tricky bastard and there is no "right" way to go about it; you simply ride it like a wave on the ocean, hoping that, eventually, it deposits you safely on the shore.
Last year, that shore was so distant, it seemed unreachable, yet, I knew that it existed. I knew because my father told me so. Not in words, but in a message so crystal clear, I knew that it was meant for me.
Longtime readers of this blog (Hi! I hope you are still out there!) will recall the story of The Teenager's friend, Brandon. You may remember the comfort that we found-and continue to find-in the simple dragonfly. Since Brandon's death, the dragonfly has come to signify our faith in Heaven and in the continued presence of loved ones who have gone before us.
In the years since Brandon's death, we have encountered dragonflies in unusual places and at odd times, and, each time; we have smiled and thanked God for the visit. The comfort that these visits have given to The Teenager, in particular, has been so very appreciated.
That said: my Dad was the most ardent supporter of this blog; it was for him and my Mom that I actually started it in the first place. Dad read the stories about dragonflies visiting The Teenager after Brandon died and there was never any doubt that he recognized the significance of the dragonfly in our lives.
The day after Dad passed, I volunteered to retrieve his dog from the kennel where he had been boarded (Mom and Dad had been out of town the week prior to his death); my nephew asked if he could go along to help, so, together we got in my Tahoe for the drive.
It was a chilly morning; there was a light frost on the ground, and I decided to let the Tahoe warm up for a minute before we pulled out. While we were waiting, I fiddled with the radio and heater knobs before glancing up at the windshield, which, is when I saw this...
...it's a terrible picture, I know. But, that's not what's important.
What's important is that, I never once, in my entire lifetime of growing up in Mayberry, remember ever seeing a dragonfly; they just weren't exactly plentiful in this climate. Also, it was the end of October. In an alpine valley. Even if they were plentiful here, they would not be at this time of year.
Those were the facts that ran through my head in the hours and days after I saw the dragonfly; in that moment, however, the only thought I had was "Hello, Daddy."
Because, I knew. I knew that he was ok. The internal monologue that had been running through my head since the moment I got the phone call: Did he feel pain? Was he aware that he was leaving? Where was he? Did he know how much I love him? Would I ever see him again? How was I going to live without his presence in my life? All of that faded away in that instant, because I knew.
I felt a peace wash over me that hasn't left me to this day. I know he is ok. I know he knows how much I love him. He feels no pain and he is still very present in my life.
Dad chose the form that he knew I most needed to see, and, while I knew, even then, that it was going to be hard, that life would never be the same for us, and that it was going to hurt; I also knew that he was there to guide me across that ocean of pain, safely to the shore.
And, I will get there, eventually.
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