Fatherhood Denied

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Erin McFarland Photography

As Father’s Day approaches yet again, your loss sits with me, and it lingers. For whatever reason, the day is harder than others, ripe with expectation and filled with disappointment and sadness over what never was and what never can be.

In life, we are frequently hurt by our expectations. I think it’s human nature to allow what “should have been” to cloud and dampen what is. In the years since your death, I’ve let go of the “should haves,” and I’ve come to appreciate and love my present day reality, but that doesn’t mean I’m still not aware of the day and all the duality it holds.

Your stint on this earth as a father was cut far shorter than either of us ever wanted. Less than three years to keep your babies, shower them with love and guide their beings towards the future we planned for us all. In that time, I was able to observe your skills as a father and watch your pure joy over their small victories and tears over their little defeats. I got to bask in the glow of a man who loved his children and share the warmth of love that would do anything on their behalf.

To the outside world, my pain exists around your death, but to my inner world, that is simply the beginning of the story.

My pain exists around your inability to watch them grow.

My pain exists over the many invisible losses that happen in a hundred different ways from missing their first loose tooth to not seeing them score the goal.

My pain exists at not having that other soul who loves them with the same depth and breadth as me and to smile together at all they are becoming.

You were an amazing father for the short time you played that roll.

My pain comes from knowing you’d give anything to finish the job of parenting but understanding that you have not been given a choice to see it through.

The pain sits with me and as the years pass it becomes less overwhelming and daunting to accept. The fact that the pain feels less sharp does not mean it does not exist; it just means it has become an almost accepted part of my being, like everything else that surrounds grief, it’s sewn into the fabric of who I have become and shapes the world I see.

I observe the fabric of my being often, curious at the deep colors cast by experiences in many ways too painful to discuss with a polite and emotionally stunted society. The same society that would like to tell us to forget the past once we make it beyond their limiting, arbitrary and confining time frames. The same culture that tells us today, we can’t or shouldn’t still grieve for all that has been missed or for the father you never got to be.

I can’t forget the laughter shared with a toddler on your shoulders.

I can’t forget the smile the first time you held them in your arms.

I can’t forget the pride, the joy, the overwhelming love you gave to them….and to us, just because it makes them uncomfortable for me to remember.

You see, what they don’t’ know is that I can hold this place in my heart, and feel the pain of expectations dashed and futures that have been altered in a cruel and unacceptable way, and yet I can still move forward and find happiness, beauty, and love at this moment.

I can’t give you back to them.

I can’t watch you be the Dad you would have been and always wanted to be.

I can’t make it better or take away the pain surrounding this day.

All I can do is press forward, accept the unacceptable and allow the pain to cast hues into my life’s fabric and allow it to intensify my inner beauty.

On this day so many grieve for all that never was but let me also remind you that we should also choose to live for all that still is.

We should live for the children who have already had their father taken and not allow that loss to steal us away too.

We should live for the father’s who aren’t given a choice and would want nothing but beauty for those they left behind.

Most importantly, we should live for us because despite all we have lost our spirit, and our being has so much more to know and see, feel and do.

I can’t teach and show my children who their father was unless I live like he wanted to live.

So while this day is hard, we’ve lived through much harder and recognizing your ability to survive it all might not bring you peace, but it should bring you a fire and a passion for the incredible power you possess.

This life, every moment you have left is yours to shape. Changing what was is an impossibility but choosing what will be is all in your hands to create.

Feel your pain, sow it into your being, allow it to wash over you and then use it to move forward bravely. All the wishes we had for them can’t come to fruition any longer, but all of those same wishes we have for ourselves are still in our hands to create.

They are gone, we are not. Don’t allow expectations to take you away from the world too.

Show society how to grieve and grow, laugh and love, lose and LIVE.

Celebrate their life this Father’s Day by living each day to it’s fullest.

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