In January, there was a story about a young country artist and his friend who had gone missing after a hunting trip. I followed the story closely as I’ve been in this story before - except the missing person was my dad. And just like the ending here, my ending was the same.
On February 28, 2002, my dad left for a day of fishing in a nearby river. He was a retired engineer and an avid outdoors man. This day was no different than most for him; he would pack his necessities, load his kayak, and hit the road. He told my mom good-bye and off he went for his adventure. And, just like Craig Strickland, he didn’t come home. After 9 days of searching, he was found on March 9, 2002.
I’ve always wanted to write this story - see the words on a page, give myself some release from things that have haunted my family for quite some time. But, then I didn’t want to share because honestly, I hate the looks of pity because this is not a place I ever want anyone to experience. And, some days I HATE that this story is mine. February is always dark and gloomy because we know these anniversaries are coming - the day he left, the day he was found, and the day of his memorial. It’s not just one day for us - it’s a string of them. And now this story of Craig and this time of year...it’s a lot.
As I first mentioned when I started writing, words have always helped me. Reading them, writing them, talking about them. In fact, my dad LOVED to read - he always had a book in hand before bed. I think he would like me sharing his story at this point in my life because he’s proud of where I am. He knows his Kimbo is a worrier - a bad habit made worse by his death - so he is happy I have found an outlet. The blog, the new goals - he’s happy I am placing my anxieties elsewhere and literally kicking them out of my life. But, they don’t go away completely. I struggle DAILY to stop being afraid - mainly of someone close to me dying again. Or even myself dying. When death happens so suddenly right in front of you, it makes you see just how quick things can change, without any warning.
And then I think of him. There is NO way he would want me to live in fear because he did not do that. He was a dreamer, a doer. For years, I have lived very scared that something bad was going to happen again - and by years, I mean until this year when I really had enough. I talked to my doctor about what’s next, and we came up with a plan. I loved this plan for the last 9 months, but right around Christmas, I decided to push harder and do more of it on my own. The choices I made to “fix” it made me gain weight that I had kicked some butt to lose, and it made me not present in my life - the latter being the worst part.
As of right now, I am getting my life back and thinking of him. I am not expecting a “full recovery” from fear and anxiety. I am fighting to see life for how beautiful it is. I have big plans and goals for this year, and I know I will reach them because I can really feel my dad pushing me harder than ever. This fight won’t go away - I will be anxious forevermore because of this loss. But, I CANNOT live in fear - not for my dad, not for my kids, not for myself.
When I read the words of Craig Strickland’s wife about how her husband was found, the story was again the same. Arms outstretched, looking towards the heavens. Man, that was so hard to read. Mainly because I feel for her and heart as she moves forward in life without her true love. But, it was hard because THAT is my story too. A sudden, scary death of someone who meant the world to me. When I think of both of them looking up, there is also hope. We have made it this far without my dad - though there have been huge bumps along the way for my family - but, we are STILL HERE. STILL FIGHTING.
Sure, we are so scared of how fragile life is - me especially, but I’ve got to keep fighting these fears on my own. I do not want to live my days scared of the what ifs. I want to keep telling my story as therapy and for someone who feels this despair too. There is hope if we seek it. We can drive ourselves out of the darkness in whatever way we see fit. Just keep fighting.
I hope Craig’s wife and family know so many are praying for their fight ahead. And, I hope my daddy would be proud that I am committing to the fight more than ever.