The Lessons of the Year

Today marks one year since my father’s death.
One year.
365 days…and 365 nights.

Another milestone that forces me, my mother, sister and others he touched to reflect on how our lives were forever changed on November 13, 2011.

Many people warned me that the first year would be the worst … and that survival should be my goal for the 365 days to follow. I have survived…and in order to move forward I feel the need to look back – on the grief, the bright spots, and the lessons of the past year.

Accept the pain.
There have been many dark moments, days and even weeks. There’s been much pain. There’s been much worry – for my mom, for my sister, for my husband, for my grandfather-less sons…and indeed worry for myself. I have questioned much: my identity, my strength and my purpose.

I still feel the impulse to pick up the phone to check-in with my Dad. Report a sports score. Share a political chat. Seek advice on all things, big and small. Or just dial his number to hear him say “Court-o.”  Even though this instinct brings pain, I fear the day when that impulse might retreat – because it’s those moments that also remind me of the special and deep relationship I share with my father.

While initially I tried avoidance and looked for ways to expedite the pain, I have grown to believe that avoidance is simply no good.  In the dark moments, I try to pause, listen, and accept the intense emotion.

Accept the love.
While often hard to find, the sun did keep shining over the course of the past year.  Every time I approached rock bottom – someone provided comfort – family, friends, even acquaintances that that I would never have anticipated playing such a role. A note that was completely unexpected and yet perfectly timed. A visit, calls, hugs, walks, meals, prayers…so many small but powerful gestures for which I am eternally grateful. Friends and family have given me solace, empathy, sympathy and physical and spiritual support beyond measure.

My parents raised me with unconditional love – but this year taught me that my family members are not the only people who care for me unconditionally.  On a daily basis, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this gift.

Embrace the Legacy
My father is alive and well in all of the lives that he touched. A year ago, I thought this was empty advice that one passes on to a friend in grief — but I witness it every single day.  I see it in my eldest son Felix, who reports any information received to anyone who will listen just like his grandfather. I see it in the intensity in which he cheers for his G-Daddy’s Mizzou Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.  I hear it when my sister calls to make sure all interested parties know when a key sports event is scheduled.  I smile as little Oliver runs with a gait that is eerily similar to that of my father – even his physical form has a striking resemblance.

The “Thomas” in Felix Thomas Morgan grows everyday…and it’s the same for so many of us who have adopted my father’s quirks, his humor and his fierce loyalty to all he loved. Through my own actions and decisions, I feel a deep and wonderful responsibility to build on this legacy.

A special person once shared a piece of advice for those facing loss: “may the memory of your loved one in time bring a smile to your face before it brings a tear to your eye.”  I am not there yet – and while my tears are still flowing with more speed and strength than my smiles – I know that a tie will come soon.

And so today I feel gratitude. I am grateful for the lessons of pain, for the love of my support network, and for the hope that the future inspires.

His legacy lives.

How to Mark the Day…

Tomorrow is July 21, 2012. My dear sweet dad’s 70th birthday.

A day to celebrate…a day to toast him…and if the past is any guide, a day for a good laugh and some poking fun of his many notable and comical attributes.

A day for laughs and smiles for the man who is the rock of our family and who has never missed being present for a moment of our lives – the highs, the lows and the in betweens.  Not a nano-second.

But this birthday won’t be the one that I envisioned, or the one that my mom and sister and friends would have ever planned.

My father died suddenly last November.

As I write, I realize that November to July makes 8 months that have passed – which is surreal. I have in no way accepted the loss, nor have I found a way to make sense of it.

His phone numbers are all still programmed into my phone. Every time I land at a new destination, I reach to call him.

Every time I witness a marvel on a sports field, my instinct is to call.

At points of indecision, lows and highs – he’s the one I want to hear.

I want to share my news – the exciting stuff and the daily reports, from the growth of his grandchildren to what’s playing on tv.

“Hey Dad – did you see Felix wearing his Cardinal gear?”

“Hi papa…could you believe that column in the Post?”

“Hi Dad, do you have a sec?”

I have 8 months of news to share – I have 8 months of lessons to learn from him – 8 months of love to give and also that I desperately need to receive.  8 months of wisdom that I need to pass along to my little boys from their beloved “G-Daddy.”

I don’t know how to mark this day tomorrow – a milestone so different now than the one that we had hoped to celebrate.

As a grieving daughter, I don’t have many answers….but as a mother, I know that I want my boys to know their g-daddy. I want smiles to spread instantly across their faces when his name is mentioned.

And so tomorrow we will bake a cake, and have a family gathering in the kitchen, and I will tell stories and show photos and do my best to pass along the spirit, the values, the selflessness and the humor that my father inspired in me.

That’s the way he would have wanted it.