In September of 2014, my father passed away and my world got turned completely upside down. I was blessed with a father that loved me unconditionally, taught me to always follow my own heart and do things my own way, and stood back allowing me to fall even when he knew I was probably making a mistake. My dad was my heart, and even when I pushed him away, he loved me just the same and never turned his back. Celebrating the holidays without him here has taken some adjusting, though I have learned that even though he may not be here in this physical reality, in some ways he is more present in my life than ever. He is a constant presence in my heart, by my side every step of the way and this is something I am aware of and grateful for each and every day.
With my dad passing away in the month of September, the holidays came around very quickly for me that year. The holiday season is often a time when families gather together and there is a feeling of cheer in the air. Children are giddy with anticipation for the surprises that will come their way and adults fill with delight around the chance to bring joy to those they love. The holidays hold so much possibility for the love that is present in life and the connection that is available to us with others. The holiday season, though, can also be a time when we feel a sense of sadness and longing for our loved ones who are no longer with us. As we ready ourselves to gather together, we can’t help but think about those who won’t be present, wrapped up in our perfectly imperfect holiday experiences, wishing they were here with us now.
What I have come to learn over the last four years is that even though my father may no longer be here in this time and space reality, he is very present in my life just the same. I am able to connect with him, feel him, and seek his guidance and there are actions and rituals I can create and engage in to keep this connection strong. When we are open to the ongoing alignment with those we have lost, they are there for us in deep and meaningful ways we may have never thought possible.
“These are ways that my father remains a very present force in our lives. It is the reason I can very often feel as though he is right here next to me, sitting by my side. “
Since the day my father passed, he has been sending me hearts to light my path and guide me along the way. I can remember a time shortly after his passing when I was feeling afraid that I had lost connection with him. I remember sitting in prayer, telling him how much I missed him and asking him where he was. The very next morning I walked out the door to my building to find hearts drawn on the sidewalk the entire way to the door of my son’s school. From that moment on, I knew that my father was by my side and would be here for me always. It was up to me to seek him out and find the ways he was connecting with me. My son receives hearts from his Papa almost every time he gets a bruise on his body, they somehow come in the shape of hearts.
My dad loved to have fun and jumped at the chance to celebrate life every opportunity he could get. He was born on the Fourth of July and loved that all of America set off fireworks for his birthday. He delighted in St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, and any other holiday that called for celebration. Although some of these holidays did not matter to me in the way they did to him, I have learned that experiencing them through my dad’s eyes since he has passed has given me another way to deeply connect with him and keep his presence very much alive. Feeling his joy and wonderment, his sense of delight, has given these days knew meaning and power.
We each have those things in our life that we consider important and are our greatest desires. For my dad, the top ones that come to mind are his living life big and proud, being there for others in a non-flashy way, and the trip to Ireland that he always talked about one day taking. Each and every day as I walk through life, I do my best to live in a way that honors my father and what was important to him. For me, this is a way to keep his legacy alive and to help him complete the things that he didn’t get the opportunity to do himself. I am in the process of planning the trip to Ireland for my father, creating an experience for him that he wasn’t able to create.
Using sayings my dad would say, telling tales about his life, noting the things throughout the day that he would have loved, and reminding my son how much Papa loves him and is proud of him. These are ways that my father remains a very present force in our lives. It is the reason I can very often feel as though he is right here next to me, sitting by my side. It is in my choosing to keep him in the forefront of my mind and life that he continues to live on in my heart and the heart of those around me.
As we make our way through the holiday season, we can make space in our lives to bring forth the presence of those who have passed and are no longer with us. Find ways to connect, try to experience something the way they would have, do something in their honor, and tell the stories that come to our minds. It is through our focus and our willingness to be open that we are able to forever be connected through love to those that mattered most to us in our lives.
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