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L. Cabajar: Celebrating Grief | Dad’s 2nd Death Anniversary

L. Cabajar: Celebrating Grief | Dad’s 2nd Death Anniversary

I struggled with insomnia again last night. These past few weeks, I really struggle to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. The night of August 1, 2021, really hit differently. I didn’t get a wink of sleep. Why? Well, it’s just the death anniversary of my Dad again. Let me tell you this, grief? It never really goes away.

Everyone tells you that as time passes, grief becomes easier to move on from.

My Dad died last August 1, 2019. This year is his second death anniversary, but I hate calling it that. I really don’t get why we celebrate milestones like that. I guess those celebrations are more for the ones left behind rather than the ones who left. Celebrating a second year that we made it despite the pain.

He died from lung cancer, the Big C. I’ve always had a rocky relationship with my Dad, and he was MIA for most of the time while I was growing up. However, despite his imperfections, he was and is my hero.

After his death, I realized I never really got to know him as a person. This became my ultimate grief.

What his favorite colors were, his favorite band, his favorite food, and how he liked his eggs – scrambled or sunny-side-up?

I think that’s the part I regret the most – how I didn’t get the chance to get a one-on-one talk with him about life and anything in general. Despite that, he was always a quiet person.

In fact, most of us probably don’t know our parents the way we understand our best friends. What makes them tick, what makes them happy, and what they think the meaning of life is. It’s because we have always seen them as authority figures in our lives, responsible and whatnot. We forget that beyond being parents, they’re people too, and we often fail to hear their stories.

Two years have gone by, and I still feel my breath cut sharply whenever I remember his last day.

Whenever I look at the creases and redness in my eyes, I am reminded of my grief.

I am reminded how, ever since his death, I never slept earlier than 12 midnight without the help of a sleeping pill. How I still fight back the tears every time there’s a family event, and I see an empty seat (more empty seats now due to social distancing).

Grief doesn’t get easier; it just gets easier to forget. As I said, my Dad has been MIA for most of my years. It’s easier to pretend that he’s just off away at work again, too busy for an update or a visit home.

But when I do remember, the pain is just the same. The memories of his last day still remain. I remember how I screamed utter howls of pain in the ER. How I got to hold his cold, clammy hands that were warm a few hours ago. How I stared at the thin, lifeless husk of a man that used to be towering and strong. So strong that every time I got tired from walking as a kid, he would pick me up and carry me on his shoulders.

Grief is complicated, and time passes differently for all of us.

It’s been two years, but it still sears. I don’t know what lesson can come forth from this, but I think it’s okay. It’s okay to release pain and pent-up emotions.

It’s okay to cry, even if it has been a while. No one can dictate how much time we ache for a person.

Grief never really goes away. But we learn to live with the sadness and learn how to create meaning with it. Life is fleeting, and that is where it holds its beauty and value.

Hold on to the things that really matter, and live every day knowing you’ve loved the people around you with the best love you can give.

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