I feel my dad’s smile inside of me.
My father passed away at 3:15 AM back in early May of 2009. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what his final moments were like and I never will. I worry because he had been in a lot of pain leading up to that point and I hope and force myself to believe he felt serenity and peace in those final hours. I pray it was simple and quiet. He knew he was loved and, ultimately, that is what matters but he deserved an easy finale as he was such an amazing man who lived much of his time in support of others.
It was not a life without its hardship. None of our lives are. He had low points, but always shouldered through them and became a better man time and again despite them. He was a deep thinker. He was a man of long conversations and he was very interesting in meaning and why we do the things we do in life. He pushed to make his mark time and again and knew how to enjoy himself when the time was there to be enjoyed. He also knew how to work and he worked very hard throughout his life. Much of that work was to make my life better and for that he has and always will have my thanks.
He and I traveled, shared many of those long conversations and had our share of adventures. Today, while driving into work, there was a StoryCorps tale being told on NPR. These short stories always find ways to move me emotionally. Today, it was the story of a woman who lost her father to the war and a man who was with him at the end. He was explaining to her how her father died. As deep as that subject is, that wasn’t the part that hit me. It was the moment when he explained that she had her father’s smile. I was hit with a flood of emotions and knew today I would be writing.
It hit on something I feel. It’s the presence of my father inside myself. You see, my memories of the sound of his voice have started to fade a bit. Even memories of him are increasingly the stuff of photos rather than direct remembrances. I remember very clearly so much, but in the same moment the passage of time slowly robs me of some of the finer points. I think it’s like that whenever someone dies. We hold the golden moments, but the larger picture slowly fades and the memories are colored by our own interpretation.
For me though, I have these moments where I channel his mannerisms, his conversational style and the way he would think so clearly, I know those parts of him live on in me. It’s more than just simple reminders. I feel a memory in those moments so vivid and so clearly him that it goes deeper than what many think of as remembrances. It’s not easy to put into words, but I see myself considering a situation or laughing or positioning my body a certain way and I know that’s something I inherited from my father and can feel his presence through the fade of time. I feel him in those moments clearer than any memory could present itself.
For me, I still feel my dad’s smile inside of me and I feel content. I know he would love the roads my life has taken, especially in recent years and I’m only truly sad when I consider that he never got the chance to spend time with Rachel and the kids. As our wedding approaches, I know I’ll miss him there, but I also know that he lives on in many ways inside of me. That makes me proud.