Dear Daddy -
It has been 12 years since we lost you. Twelve years is a long time, and so many things have happened since that sad Sunday morning; for that is a harsh reality of death: life does go on. Thousands of minutes have passed since 6:09am, December 7, 1997, and yet that particular moment is seared in my memory like only a handful of others.
I regret not fully waking up to give you a hug and kiss that Thursday night before you left for the Keys Friday morning. I had been in Tallahassee all week, and you arrived home late after a business dinner. In a half-alert moment, I heard you open the door; but I stayed in bed. I missed you the next morning as you left early for Marathon...no doubt excited for the warm, beautiful weather and the peace of Avenue M. My last memory of you is sitting on the sofa in the living room at Grandmama's watching football with Uncle Tommy Williams, Grandaddy and various other family members. You were laughing, with that twinkle in your eye, and joking with Uncle Tommy -probably about the Georgia Bulldogs.
Later that morning, as Ashley and I waited to board our plane to Marathon, I was actually stunned that the sun had risen, that time continued ticking on the clock, and that people were going about their normal lives...how could they? Didn't they know something awful had happened? That my father had died? I was mad and sad and lost. Completely untethered.
One foot in front of the other, one day at a time, slowly, slowly, life settled into a new normal. Normalcy is bittersweet. Losing you is the single worst thing I've had to endure in my life. How could life possibly ever be normal again? Happily, it is. And I know that you are proud of that.
But the pain is still here, and some days are a lot worse than others. Like last Monday as I watched a woman about my age greeting her father at baggage claim with hugs and smiles. Or today, on the anniversary of your passing, when I'm on my own in Tallahassee, far away from anyone who remembers the significance of today and why I'm so sad.
When Mama called me that morning 12 years ago, all I could do was pray: that God would keep you close to Him, and that He would keep you close to me in my heart. That is how I begin my prayers every day, and I believe God has kept up His end of the bargain. Still, I'm not sure the untethered feeling will ever go away.
During the memorial service someone said "your father wouldn't want you to be sad." I told her that you most definitely would want me to be sad that you were gone, because I missed you. And I still do. I love you, Daddy.
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