The thing about time is that it just keeps moving. It doesn’t pause for anyone to get caught up, make their way or catch their breath. Every once in a while we stop long enough to do the math, count the days, sing Happy Birthday, note the month, marvel at years that have gone by — but even as we do it, time flies flies right by with no regard to your particular goals or agendas.
For me, today, 14 years have gone by. It’s a day where I always pause and note the passage.
The pain of losing a parent doesn’t get better. People tell you (and genuinely hope for you, I believe) that time will heal all wounds but the truth is that time is ruthless and unfeeling. And the relationship between time and pain is nowhere near linear. When it comes to healing, time actually fails quite spectacularly, in my opinion. I try and re-focus the sentiment in order to assuage my grief: Time does not heal all wounds, but it does allow you to find a comfort level with the pain. Yes, this sounds better. And in a way this is slightly more accurate, but it still doesn’t get to the root of the experience.
This week, as the date has approached and I have paused to feel that passage. I have again sought out a way for my mind to make sense of this experience. Of this loss. It’s a continuous adventure actually, trying to figure it all out, and the event itself is a tiny scratch on the camera lens through which I view every single day of my life. This year it feels very present.
We are trying to plan a wedding. We are taking steps towards having a baby. There is no way to get through these types of moments without being acutely aware that my father is gone and will not be a part of any of it. They are happy and momentous occasions, and to go through them without focusing on what is missing will take discipline, because no matter how you dress it all up, there will be an empty space where he should be.
But emptiness is not the only experience. I mentioned discipline, and the thing about this entire situation — this event that has shaped who I am in how I live — is that I am no stranger to discipline as a coping mechanism. In the past few years I have felt more motivated than ever to get my health in check. People ask me all the time how I stay so disciplined and I always struggle with how to answer. I hear on a regular basis, “How do you do what you do?” “I don’t have that kind of time or energy.” “I can’t be so extreme, but I appreciate that you are so focused.” And I totally get all of that. I wish I could tell you my discipline comes from a pill or a beverage or an inspirational quote pinned on a pinboard near you. But the truth is my discipline comes from a place of self-preservation.
What motivates me to get out of bed in the morning, or to get into the gym, or to eat strictly for 30 days like a crazy person is that one morning I woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast and watched my father collapse on our living room floor. I watched his lips turn blue and his face get puffy and the life slip right out of him in a matter of seconds. It happened in an instant, and from that day forward he was gone. No trace of our times spent together except for what has lived on in my memory. On that day he became a story. He became past tense. He became a bookended period of time.
Things change faster than your brain can process it, and this event for me that has left, among other things, an indelible drive to take advantage of my own life. A drive to make sure I do all that I can to make sure the hole I leave in the lives of my friends and family as small as possible. I am motivated and I am disciplined because it helps me compartmentalize my pain. It helps the world around me make sense. And it is not something that I would want to advise another person on. I am not trying to win at life, or prove that I’m the best or be an inspiration. I am just a girl who is trying to make sense of it all, and more importantly trying to make the most of her time.