When we lose someone who has an immeasurable impact upon our hearts and our lives, there is an unfillable void where they once stood. At first, this void is a vast, black, endless cavern, and only the sound of our tears echoes as they fall. Slowly, over time, that blackness, that void fills with the love and light of our memories and experiences. When grief is raw and new, it hurts to remember the good times and the laughter. However, as we become more comfortable with grief and learn how to maneuver our world without the one we love, we can gently begin to remember the good things about the person we love without that catch in our breath, the searing pain that strikes our heart. We slowly gain control of the tears that innately creep into our eyes. As time continues to move forward and we settle into our new normal, rather than cry, we can begin to smile tentatively and then laugh with our memories of those we love. When our hearts heal a bit, and our pain eases, we can begin to look around and see the small signs our loved ones send to us, letting us know they are near.
Today, my dad would have turned 72. It’s hard to believe it has been sixteen years since I have heard, “Hey, Weiner! How’s my girl?” or heard his warm laugh. There are days that I feel as if it were just yesterday, and then there are days that feel as though it has been an eternity. I always feel more sensitive and emotional this time of year. I cry inexplicably. I don’t find my husband funny. I become more emotional with my child. I find that I make hugs last longer, hold hands more frequently, and appreciate the small things. I also notice little signs everywhere that my dad has not abandoned me.
I have dreamt about my dad for the past two weeks. I cannot remember the dreams, but that warm, happy, loving feeling is with me when I awake, and it carries on throughout the day. I find myself thinking about specific memories and smiling. When I turn on the radio, songs that he sang or danced to in his funny way or his favorite songs are playing. I haven’t heard those songs in years. Little messages appear randomly everywhere. Sometimes when I am sitting alone in the quiet of the house, I can smell his cologne. It’s just a waft, a ghost of fragrance, but it is his. I’ve seen cardinals in pairs or trios outside the dining room window, and I believe them to be signs that he is with his beloved brother, Jim, and my Grandma Tillie. He sends me little signs that he is near, although I can’t see him.
Although Jordan has never met her grandfather, I see him in her. Her enjoyment of The Rose Inn would make him proud, and I’m sure he would have a good laugh over it. Her fearlessness would make him boast about her. Her spunk and wit would be nurtured and encouraged, as well as her spark of mischief. He would enjoy her to absolutely no end, of this I am certain. I truly believe he and Eric’s dad had a hand in sending her to us. I make sure to thank them for her. It is the small things that keep him alive.
Today, as I have done every February 11th for the past sixteen years, I will honor him by doing a shot of Crown Royal and a toast to him and all he is. Today, I can remember him with more smiles than tears. Today, I will look for the little signs that he is still with me.
On this February 11th, dear reader, stay safe, be smart, do a shot and say cheers to a good man and a life well-lived, look for the little signs, and of course, wash your hands.