My pain is not unique. I’ll be the first to tell you that.
I’m not the first person in the world to lose a father. I won’t be the last. It’s part of life. However, I’d be lying if I said that as each day passes, I miss my father more than the last.
Four years later, a piece of my heart still hurts, yet part of me feels more alive than ever before.
My father was one of those men whose friends always wanted to be around him. His charismatic, positive personality was something I always wanted to emulate. His love towards my mother always warmed my heart, and the love for his children — was one that I, along with my siblings, held near.
My dad passed away from a rare form of esophageal cancer. He fought like hell. My mom fought like hell. We all, in some way, fought like hell. We wanted to win the fight, and in some strange way – we did.
It took me a few years to realize that.
We won because of this little thing called perspective. My father was a hero. He was philanthropic. He was admirable and loveable. He worked hard. He laughed even harder. In the end — I had a great father. I learned so much in 27 years. I won, we won, because we had such a wonderful person to surround ourselves with, who loved us unconditionally. We were fortunate to have such a presence in our lives.
As I look back at that little thing called perspective — there are five things I wish I had told my father. These are words that I lost at the time of his sickness.
1. I love you. The most powerful words in the world. It sounds so simple. We don’t tell the people around us how much they mean to us. When it’s too late — we only hope we did more often. Dad, I love you.
2. Thank you. I’d tell my father “thank you.” Gratitude is something we take for granted. People will go out of their way for us, but we forget to say “thanks.” I’d tell my father “thank you” for the time he spent with me, the lessons he taught me, and the love he showed me.
3. I’m proud of you. It may sound strange coming from a daughter, but I’m really proud of my father. He was generous and thoughtful. He went out of his way to hold onto relationships that meant the most to him — even friends from childhood. We don’t tell our family members that when they do something great – how proud we are of their accomplishments.
4. We’re going to be okay. I’m going to be okay. Parents have superhero strength. When they let their guard down, show their human, we tend to fall apart. My dad was in a lot of pain, but he didn’t want us worry. He knew his time with us was dwindling. I would have liked to talk to my father more about death. It sounds morbid. It’s a difficult conversation when you’re trying to give someone hope, but it is a conversation worth having. I wanted to let him know that we — my mother, brother, sister and I were going to be okay when he’s no longer with us. We are strong and resilient. He taught us that.
5. You’ll always be in my heart. Each day that passes, I think about my father. Whether it’s a memory, advice, or wisdom — I still look to him. I would have told my dad that no matter what happens in life, he would always be in my heart.
These words help me heal. They help me find inner strength. They help me carry on.
Death takes a toll. It’s not easy mourning the people we love. It’s tough letting go, but when there’s a great big world out there… we have to remember to live.
In the words of my father: “Live every second of every day. Life is beautiful.”
About the author
Kathy Vitale Michel is an Emmy-award winning journalist and has worked for several news and feature outlets: “Good Morning America,” Baltimore Magazine, CNN Travel, and KUSA/9News in Denver. She currently works as a content manager and writer at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.She also serves on the board for the G.L. Vitale Family Foundation, which is based in her hometown—Galesburg, Illinois. Kathy earned her Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. To connect with Kathy, find her on LinkedIn.
This article originally appeared on Maria Shriver.com
Photo credit:Paul Sullivan/flickr