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Fatherless On Father's Day

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I can never decide if it's apropos that the most wonderful man I've ever known died right before Father's Day, or if it's a cruel twist of fate. Either way, if the Hallmark holiday didn't already make me think of my dad, the timing certainly does.

On June 13, 2013 at 1:12 a.m., my beautiful father died. Our hero departed this world surrounded by the women that loved him beyond measure: my mother, my two sisters and me.

After that it was a year of firsts without dad: Father's Day, my parents' anniversary, birthdays, all life cycle events. In the beginning we felt so broken, lost and confused at how all this could have happened. It's strange how everything continues on so 'normally' and yet your 'normal' is forever shifted.

I distinctly remember a week after he died asking my mother "Will our family ever know happiness again?" She responded, "Yes, when the babies come". I was four and a half months pregnant when my sweet father died. My younger sister was seven months pregnant.

Within minutes of his death, my sister was rushed to the delivery unit. I found her with a heart monitor strapped to her belly. Through the sound of my nephew's strong heartbeat (who would safely arrive in this world two months later and have my dad's namesake) I reminded my sister that we all loved our father, but that he was our past now and we had to focus on these babies who were our future: His legacy.

It burned to say those words, but I knew that is what he would've said and done. He was always so focused on the well-being of his family, putting everyone else first, and in an instance like this it would be no different.

In the Jewish faith, it's believed that it takes the spirit almost a year to make it to heaven. That's why mourners are supposed to pray for their deceased parent for nearly a year afterwards: to help the soul ascend to the Pearly gates.

I felt so guilty for not truly understanding how hard the grief was for those that experienced it before me.

In those first 12 months, it was hard to grasp that his physical presence was gone, but I could feel his spirit close by. That included when my daughter was born.

Right after she was delivered, the doctor stated loudly, "Time 1:12". I gasped! My mother (who was on the other side of the room) shouted, "I know exactly what you are thinking."

He left this world at 1:12 a.m. and now his granddaughter was arriving in it at 1:12 p.m. Was that a strange coincidence or something more? At that moment I was all by myself, but I couldn't help but feel like he was right there holding my hand.

In the end, my mother was right though. Happiness did eventually find us. In fact, this year on the third anniversary of his death, I was putting my daughter to bed and we were being silly, with tickles and zerberts galore. All I could think of was what a beautiful sound her giggles were, knowing just 36 months before our family only had tears.

A number of my friends have lost their parents this year, meaning they're fatherless on Father's Day for the first time. Baby-boomers that didn't even come close to living past Statistics Canada's life expectancy today (79 for men, 83 for women). It's always a shock when it's 'your' parent. You join this club that you always knew 'someday' you'd be a part of, but just weren't expecting so soon.

When it happened to me. I felt so guilty for not truly understanding how hard the grief was for those that experienced it before me. But I can tell you, time does heal wounds and even though the loss always burns and you now see life through a different lens, it does get easier.

While our loss is so raw and hard to swallow, our loss is also no different than others. Grieving is grieving, whether your father is 90, 60 or 30.

When my dad died I asked the rabbi 'why' and 'how' this could have happened. He said in time we would come to see it the other way around. Instead of looking at why did we lose him so soon, we would see how lucky we were to have him so long. It took a while to get there, but we have arrived.

While our loss is so raw and hard to swallow, our loss is also no different than others. Grieving is grieving, whether your father is 90, 60 or 30.

But when you hear of what others have been through, like losing a child too young (or a father only in his 30s), or someone had a difficult and long battle with cancer, or even being at the wrong place at the wrong time and dying at an Orlando nightclub while they were trying to enjoy life, you realize you have no right to complain.

I no longer feel his spiritual presence, but instead I feel him in me. Like when I come home after a long day apart from my daughter and I see her and start beaming from ear to ear. I realize I'm grinning the same way he would every day when he'd come home and see his girls. Or when my toddler does something wrong and I realize there's a teachable moment there the way he would always do with us.

We were so incredibly blessed to have been graced by this humble and loving man. He spoiled us rotten with his attentiveness and affection. I feel lucky to have had such a wonderful man as my father and a role model of what a parent, life partner, colleague and just a good human being should be.

On this Father's Day, I no longer feel sad, but honoured, grateful and proud to have had him as my dad.

Happy Father's Day daddy. We miss you.

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