My First Father's Day without Dad
By Debbie Kerr
As a kid, Father’s Day meant making something in school to give to my dad. It didn’t matter that everyone in the class was making the same thing. I was totally focused on MY gift to MY dad. It was all that mattered.
I can still remember the excitement of keeping my gift a secret until the big reveal on Father’s Day. I’m sure I was more excited about the whole thing than my dad. I held out my gift and waited for him to say he liked it. His smile and hug meant I had made him happy. It meant everything to me. In some ways, Father’s Day was really my day.
Eventually, I didn’t make gifts at school and stopped making something special for him at home. I bought a card or gift…maybe even both. Sometimes I did something special for him. I took him for granted. He was my dad and I still believed he would always be there. It didn’t occur to me that someday I would not be able to hug him, joke around with him, or see the joy on his face when I walked into the room.
Even as my friends lost one or both of their parents, I couldn’t fully appreciate their loss. I could see what their loss did to them. I could feel their sadness. Yet I could only imagine what it was like.
As of January this year, I no longer have to imagine what it is like to lose a parent. My father died just a few months short of his 86th birthday. And, even in death, my father left me a gift.
Since my father’s death was before COVID-19, there was no restriction on the number of people who could be with him in his room at the nursing home. In fact, during the day, there was a large group of people with him, and two people always stayed with him at night so that he would never be alone.
As we watched my father’s health deteriorate, I connected with my brothers on an entirely new level. We had something new in common. We were, in our own way, preparing to lose one of our parents. We were lucky enough to say good-bye and tell him how much we loved him.
At the end of his life, my father was surrounded by so many of his family. We couldn’t have fit anyone else in that room and you could feel the love that each person directed at him. It was powerful, comforting, and yet peaceful…all at the same time. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. Ironically, this feeling was my father’s final gift to me.
It’s a gift that comes to me every time I think about him. And now, on Father’s Day, my loss is more of a reality. There won’t be another visit. There won’t be a grin when I tell him that I am his favourite daughter. As his only daughter, it was a standing joke between us.
So this Father’s Day is the worst of times because my father is no longer with me physically; however, it is still the best of times. I have so many great memories of my father and, unlike so many people during COVID-19, I was able to be with him when he passed from this life to the next. And, best of all, I can still feel his presence. The love I felt when my father died is the same love I feel every time I think of him. That love is the gift that keeps on giving.
Happy Father’s Day, dad. Thank you for helping me to see that you were the one giving me a gift each year.
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Over 30-years of writing experience, about 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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