The last of the firsts

The last of the firsts

As the anniversary of dad's passing arrives, I reflect on the year of firsts

"Those we love don't go away, they walk beside us every day...unseen, unheard, but always near, still loved, still missed, and very dear." 

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Today marks the last of the firsts. It’s the first anniversary of my dad passing. What a roller coaster of a year it’s been. Quite a difficult year really. You see, I am truly blessed, and generally, there is very little ‘drama’ that ensues in my life. So for little ol’ me, who has not had to personally deal with much adversity in her life, last year did kinda rock me to my foundations.

I reflect often on the life lessons that I have learned (and continue to learn!). People who know me, know that I am an advocate for Byron Katie’s The Work and endeavour to practise it on a regular basis. One of the key tenets of The Work is that all pain and suffering stems from an argument with reality. The invitation is to question your thoughts and beliefs to see if they really are true. Inevitably, when you work through the process, you see your “story” for what it is: a story that you tell yourself about your life or what’s happening or what you see or a particular belief or whatever. Once you see “it” as a story and not a concrete truth, you can see that the opposite is (or can be) equally as true. And if you start to look at beliefs and entertain the thought that perhaps the opposite of a painful belief could be true…it feels easier and less stressful to simply believe that instead. I find it incredibly liberating and have found much peace in my life where there once was stress.

But I don’t always succeed…in this last year I have definitely spent more time than I usually like to in “my story” and believing all sorts of things that simply aren’t true. But these thoughts felt like a bit of a comfort blanket for me in my times of grief – when I wanted nothing more than a good cry. One of the themes I noticed in my thinking and my language around the passing of dad is how I often used the phrase “I lost my dad.” Whenever I would think that thought, I would feel a piercing pain in my heart, and my throat would start to choke and my eyes would prickle with tears. Sometimes I want to induce a bit of a pity party and have a cry, and that thought is always a guaranteed to winner for achieving that outcome.

But one day I decided to do The Work on this thought that “I have lost my dad,” and I realised something: in many ways…the exact opposite is actually true. So if I share with you an abridged version of The Work on that thought, it goes something like this:

I’ve lost dad…is that true? Well…I can no longer hang around with him and joke with him and get annoyed with him (in the flesh). So it sure feels like I’ve lost him.

But…I’ve lost dad…is that REALLY true? Actually…in some ways…if I be honest…I have actually found dad. You can understand my surprise when I realised that this thought is actually as true as the other one. Let me share with you some of the ways that I have actually found my father since he passed away:

  • The perfume that I had when dad fell ill, which I wore all through that time, has become my “dad perfume”. Whenever I’m going somewhere or doing something that’s dad-related, I wear that perfume. If I go to MISA (the not-for-profit that he set up and worked at for 20 off years), or hang out with my step-mother, or drive his car…I wear that perfume. I can always just wear it if ever I want to feel close to him…whatever I’m doing. It’s very comforting.
  • After dad passed away, I bought myself a lovely pair of earrings to wear to his funeral that I have decided are my “dad earrings”. Similar to the perfume, I wear them when I’m doing dad-stuff. Or if I want to channel his energy, I wear them.
  • In the lead up to the funeral, we did that thing that everyone does when a loved passes away: we went through pretty much every photo in our possession and pulled together all the photos of dad. So now I have them at my easy disposal. There’s a whole section in my iPhone photo gallery where I was using an app to take a photo of an old physical photograph to have a digital copy…so whenever I scroll back through my photos on my phone…there’s dad!! I found him!
  • I find myself talking to him…often. And when I’m in a tough situation (even if it’s just something like trying to lift a new, heavier weight at the gym)…I call on him. I ask him to give me strength or clarity or whatever I think I need. I literally say “Come on dad…give us a hand here!!” or I see his face in front of me saying “Come on Nik!! You got this!!!” And it really warms my heart.

The other thing I have found is that I no longer (well…rarely) feel angry or frustrated with dad. As I’ve said before, it’s no secret dad and I didn’t agree on everything. And there were many times over the years where he did my head in (and I’m sure I did his head in). But I don’t feel the pull to dwell on those things so much. I would prefer to remember the happy times and the ways in which I loved and adored my dad and all the things from him for which I’m grateful. I want those memories. Some people may think that’s putting on the rose-coloured glasses, but so what? If that’s a more peaceful way to live my life…what’s wrong with that? Why would I want to induce stress or heartache by focusing on memories that bring pain?? What would THAT do for me??

At the end of the day, there’s no denying that it is incredibly sad that I don’t have my dad’s physical presence anymore, and I’m not for one second saying that I prefer it that way. Of course not…he was a bloody funny and incredibly smart man, and in many ways the world is a little less bright with him not in it. I guess I’m just sharing with you the strategy I stumbled across for trying to ease the pain a little bit.

It also dawned on me…why do we wait until we “lose” someone before we “find” them in those quirky ways? Why don’t we do it while they’re still here so we get to hang out with them in the flesh…and enjoy those other moments with them as well? That’s my invitation to you…for the loved ones in your life…what are the ways that you keep them present with you, and in your thoughts and in your heart, even when you know you’re going to go home to them tonight?