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You lived on a pedestal for three years.
It was easier for me that way—easier to remember the good times and how much I loved having you as a dad.
To say I was a daddy’s girl growing up would be an understatement. I was so lucky to have you home my entire childhood. I tagged along everywhere.
I loved spending any time with you that I could—playing catch outside or watching “Are You Afraid of the Dark” together because indeed, I was afraid of the dark and couldn’t watch the show alone.
The happy memories aren’t the ones that hurt—those are the ones I will cherish forever.
So many times, including months before your lung cancer diagnosis, I wished you would be out of my life. I wished Mom and I could live a “normal” life without your constant mood swings.
Facing the real fact of losing you, I felt instant regret and guilt about your diagnosis.
Was this my fault? Was God punishing me for thinking such awful things? Didn’t he know that I didn’t actually mean it and said it out of hurt and anger? How could I fix this? Make it right? Keep you alive?
These were the memories that broke my heart. We never worked through them; just pushed them aside and moved on. Once you had under a year to live, I couldn’t rehash the bad memories. I needed our relationship to end positively. I needed you to be who I always wished you would be.
May 16, 2017, at 5:16 p.m., the moment you left us, those bad memories disappeared as if they never happened.
In my mind, you won the Best Dad Award and were everything I ever wanted. And in those last months, you were. We reconnected in ways I never thought possible.
In that moment of holding you, while you took your last breath, I was daddy’s little girl again.
But the pedestal wasn’t real. In the long run, it made grieving more difficult. There was so much I didn’t process. The guilt. The hurt. The sadness. I grieved your loss but grieved all that I missed before.
I didn’t have an easy childhood, but I hid those emotions and scars because I wasn’t ready for them.
I had to forgive you to heal. Forgive you for the letdowns. Forgive you for dying. Forgive you for leaving me right when I saw the glimpse of the man I knew from 20 years ago—a man who would do anything for his daughter, a man I used to call dad, not father or Wayne.
How do you forgive and get closure from someone who isn’t there anymore? This was the hardest thing for me to come to terms with, but the most important part of my healing. It took a long time to finally confront these emotions, and it was hard as hell. My heart broke all over again reliving those difficult moments, your illness, and your death.
I no longer saw you up on that pedestal. Instead, I saw you for who you were: my dad. You had your own demons, and I understand that more now. Honestly, it helps me knowing you were human and did the best that you could, given your experiences. I know, in your own way, you loved me, and you shaped me into who I am. I learned to be strong, learned what I deserve, and I learned that second chances can be worth it.
No, you’re not on that pedestal. But I love you more because of that. I choose to remember all of you, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I let go of the unrealistic expectations, the pain. I am thankful to be your daughter and to have had you for as long as I did. Without you, I wouldn’t be me.
And I am damn proud of who I have become, and I know you would be too.
Love you always, and I will forever be daddy’s little girl.