Tuesday, June 14, 2016

10 Years After My Father's Death: No Pain Lasts Forever, Trust Me!

For the past few years, on June 14, we always said "in ___ years it will have been a decade since Dad died", and today I can actually say that my father has been dead for 10 years. Today, around this time, I was stroking a dead man's hair and tried to remember every detail of his face. I must have been successful, because I remember the mole under his lips, his teeth and the dimple in his chin. I can even remember hearing his voice just a few hours before seeing him lie there in the hospital. And all that has now been 10 years ago, and for those who felt like I did that day, which is not great, I have only one thing to say: Time really does heal all wounds!

For someone of my age and background to claim I have experienced hardship is sort of ignorant. However, to learn from the lessons life gives us all it takes is a bad grade in Kindergarten or a childhood bully: almost all of us experienced that, yet nobody thinks about it now, right? At the time it did suck, though, and we were embarrassed, hurt or sad. I have felt sad so often, probably more often than I felt happy, but when I look back at the entire 27 years of my life all I see is laughter, rainbows and unicorns. That just happens because our brain tries to delete traumatic experiences, and slowly but surely it succeeds in doing that. The death of my father is no different.

Oh gee, the few months after my dad passed away I didn't even get out of bed. Nothing, I thought, would ever be as bad, and I was wrong about that. Eventually, lying in bed and wallowing just didn't sound good anymore, partially because I just realized that life goes on, and that what happened had silver linings, too. At the same time, I had people help me in person, on the phone and by praying for me which is a great thing that happens when people suffer, and my own faith did a lot of good as well, although that faith is no longer in place to help me today. Today, ten years later, I remember feeling terrible, but I don't feel terrible anymore. I miss my father, still, but I got used to him being gone and never coming back. The next time I buried somebody close, which was a few weeks later, it wasn't as bad. And the time after. And the time after that (it happened a lot...).

There's no such thing as just a bad experience that will ruin our lives. I personally find it hard to imagine getting over losing your child to a gunman in Newtown, CT or watching your kid kick it from cancer, but whenever a bad thing happens, it can always get worse. Once I understood that I started appreciating the good times much more. By losing my father at age 17 the loss of my grandma, two good friends and my pets brought a tear to my eye, but not a hundred like I'm confident it would have if death hadn't claimed my dad' life before. So in the end, the worst thing that ever happened to me became the biggest lesson for me to not fall apart again next time.

So many people could benefit from looking at hardship like that. I said goodbye to more things than I could ever count. Not all of them are dead, some are just out of reach never to come back again for a number of reasons. But all the goodbyes prepared me for the goodbyes I had to say after. This year, for instance, I said goodbye to two boys, one because I had to leave his country and one because he didn't care about me. If I was a beginner at moving on I'd still have these guys around because who really likes goodbyes? The fact is that I would never have been able to make the decision to walk away if I didn't know that the pain of losing someone is temporary. Taken by force of by choice, losing people sucks. But the only truth is that every day that goes by it will suck less.

My father won't come back and I don't even believe I will ever see him again as part of an afterlife. Thinking about that blows big time. Sure, my life would have been so much better if he was still around, but in German we accurately have a saying that claims that "life is not a request show"; take it or leave it. I personally thought about leaving it then, and I'm glad I didn't because what came after was pretty freaking awesome. It could have been a lot easier but it could have been a lot harder, too. All I know is that I've been half-orphaned for a decade now, and I rarely ever think about it. If I, a weak and emotional person who needs love, like that of a father, much more than a lot of other people, can get over the death of the man who loved her most, anything is possible...

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