How Do I Live Without My Dad?
Daddy was, like fathers for many little girls, my hero and prince in shining armor. He was my best friend, defender, and confidant. He was my first love.
In the spring of 2004, when I was just 8 years old, Daddy was diagnosed with kidney and lung failure, which left him bedridden. He often got so sick in the middle of the night that we had to take him to hospital. It felt as if we were always at the hospital, watching by his bedside. It was not easy for us to see him die slowly every day. Somewhere deep inside, I hoped and prayed for a miracle. I needed him to stay alive, if not for anyone else, for me! Unfortunately, he got worse by the day.
The first day of my summer break from school, I dashed home, happy I'd be able to spend my time with him instead of being in class. That was the day he died.
The gate to our home flung open at about 8 p.m. that evening, and many people came into the house. The atmosphere was sad. Expressions of pain ranged from loud moans to fainting. Father had been a breadwinner for the entire family, including for his older siblings and parents. Now we were all left to fend for ourselves. His lifeless body was brought home for the last funeral rites and we buried him two days later.
Suddenly it hit me that my father wasn't there anymore.
Everything happened so fast, I didn’t know what to do. Being a little girl, I had the childlike faith that he would come back to me soon — if not that day, maybe 10 years later. Mother held my brothers and I close as she tried to explain the concept of death, but I didn’t want to hear that I had lost my favorite person!
The adjustment to life after his death was difficult. Our lives were never the same. We only had our mother to provide for us. She had to work extra hard to see us through school and put food on the table. The finances were strained, and we soon lost all hope. Joy was a rare emotion. We didn’t know how to move on from this tragedy and face the life ahead of us.
I remember the times I’d go to his room to watch the morning cartoon show, as had been our weekend custom. Suddenly it would hit me that my father wasn't there anymore. I would return to my room, sob for a few hours, and then roll out of bed and sluggishly carry on with my day. Life had suddenly lost its color. The memories lingered.
Over each stage of my life, I felt unexplainable emotions — the primary one being pain. As a growing woman, I needed my father’s counsel and opinions about my career path and relationships. I desperately wanted to simply have a conversation with the man whose love for me was purer than gold. I'd often cry myself to sleep at night, and every memory of him opened the wounds to bleed afresh. I became indifferent to life. Many walls went up. I developed trust issues, and along the way, a low self-esteem. I just did not know how to hold my life together and make the best of it.
Every time I felt I was in a position where I needed him, I cried. For close to 20 years of my life, I never allowed these feelings to leave me. My life literally was at a standstill, and I never expected it to bring me anything but pain.
Then, a friend told me something profound about healing from loss. Healing doesn’t mean that the memories or the love we have for this person die. No! It means that we deliberately live our lives in a way that will make them glad in eternity. We do not stop living because we lost someone. Instead, we live in a way that will honor their memory and boost our heritage. And now I am glad I have walked this mile in my journey of healing.
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