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Edges

I miss my dad.

It was around 6:30 in the morning when the call came in. The inevitable phone call that while I knew was coming, rung throughout the house with deafening surprise and inescapable truth. Two years ago today, this was the moment they told me my father had passed away peacefully. His gradual decline sadly took place over far too many years, as he was slowly and painfully taken from me. While I was relieved his suffering was finally over, the depth of what just happened hit me hard—the weight of the world itself placed upon my fragile chest.

He was my rock. He was the wisest teacher I’ve ever known. He was the strength I could draw from at a moment’s notice.

And in that single moment that felt like an overwhelming eternity, he was gone.

I still remember the phone trembling in my hand, while the nurse at the long term care home did the worst part of her job by breaking the news to me. After hanging up, my face contorted into a grimace so tight that tears could barely escape my eyes. My wife, laying in bed next to me, held me close. She said, “I’m so sorry”, and then comforted me in silence as my emotions finally crashed upon the shoreline of my life, in a tidal wave of pain, loss, and emptiness. It was the very moment the hole was torn open in my heart, and the edges of my wound still remain to this day.

Through this process, I’ve learned grief is a fickle and poignant companion. Most days it lurks in the dusty shadows of our subconscious; a presence we’re barely aware of as we go about our daily lives. We forget of its existence, and let our proverbial guard down. We enjoy the laughs and smiles, and live relatively unimpeded by painful memories. Oftentimes, however, our lives catch on the rough edges of those wounds that aren’t fully healed. Like a crack in the knuckle of a finger, we’re quickly reminded of the grief as the gash is ripped open once more.

The hole left in my heart feels no smaller, even two years later. The edges, still jagged and scabbed, barely mend themselves together to cover the hollow darkness underneath. I wish I could know when it will hurt less. When it will feel less raw and less real. When it will no longer feel like it just happened yesterday. Perhaps it never truly will. Even when those edges are finally smoothed over by the healing passage of time, the weakness underneath will still reveal itself if I press too hard on that spot.

Beyond anything else, my dad always wanted me to be happy. He never missed the opportunity to tell me—and others—how proud he was of me. Knowing I was ever mired in sadness, trouble, doubts, or conflict was enough to act as a stab to his own heart, as much as it was to mine. More than anything, he would want me to be strong and remember him fondly. The latter is a given, and always will be.

On this day, the former is so hard.

The edges have once again caught, and my heart weeps. The finality and grief of the loss is once again fully and heavily illuminated, as I stare at my favourite black and white photo of my dad and me during a cross-country skiing day. That beaming pride he felt, clearly evident in his smile. And beside him a younger version of myself; equally smiling because I have my rock to lean on. I held that photo close to my chest, and allowed the tears and emotions to flow while playing his favourite song:

Ye’ll come and find the place where i am lying

And kneel and say ave there for me

And i shall hear, though soft you tread above me

And all my grave shall warmer, sweeter be

And ye shall bend and tell me that you love me

And i shall sleep in peace until you come to me

Danny Boy

I miss you and love you so very much, dad. How I wish I could stand beside you and smile just one more time. You’re still my confidant, teacher, and strength. You’re still my rock. Most of all, you will always be the very best of me.

And one day, I hope, these edges will finally be gone.

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