This birthday (May 25th) marks the 9th birthday of my dad's which I've had to spend without my companion, my friend, my fellow math nerd, my cheerleader, my coach, my college admissions counselor, my favorite dad joke teller: my dad. As I weep writing this, remembering all the memories and aching over the lost memories, I remind myself to celebrate. Celebrate who he was, what he did, and how he loved our family and others.
To those who have experienced great loss, I hurt with you. Every pain is different. I choose to celebrate, not because I do not feel pain, but as a companion of my pain. While the effects of loss may seem to lessen over the years, while the ocean waves of grief tend to spread themselves out, the pain is still there and still real. It has taken me many years to understand that celebrating can walk hand in hand with pain and grief. So in the midst of pain, I choose to also celebrate.
Through pictures and words, here is a glimpse of who my dad was to me:
My dad was our biggest cheerleader. He was at every game either coaching or cheering from the sidelines. Some of my first memories include my dad sitting in the hockey rink as we cheered on my brother. Of course, there was always an arcade, which I spent most of my time in. Dad would help me win obnoxious stuffed animals that my mom somehow found room to store (until I forgot about them, I'm sure- ha!).
Later he went on to coach/co-coach my softball team, my basketball team and my golf team. He cheered for me during swimming, figure skating, ballet and rowing. If you can tell, my dad was a lover of sports through and through. He was an all-American in multiple sports, a tennis pro, which paid his way through school, a ping-pong champion and a golf amateur extraordinaire.
I don't remember many days that passed during Middle & High School, where my dad was not on the golf course. He was a phenomenal golfer and with his calm and collected spirit, he was a great mentor to me and other young golfers. "Try your best, but sometimes you'll just hit the ball wrong, and that's ok. Keep working at it." I would jump in the golf cart any time I could, mainly so I could drive, and now those times watching my dad play, will forever be burned into my memory. I am so thankful for that.
Every time I would play with my dad he would walk up with me to my shot and explain exactly how the hole should be played. Of course, after I botched the first shot, he would go with me to the next and form a new strategy. "If you hit this second shot this way, then third on the green, you can putt and make par..." Sure dad... It never quite happened the way he would narrate. But it taught me to plan, and then adjust, plan, and then adjust. Because sometimes you botch the first shot and have to make a new strategy at the second, but there is always room to make a par.
Little known fact: my dad actually convinced me to study religious studies in school. I remember talking to my dad on the phone and he was begging me to take a religious studies class at Carolina. I dragged my feet, complaining that the only reason he wanted me to was so that he could get access to all my readings on blackboard (our online portal). Which, let's be honest, is probably true! At this point he was in-between seminary classes and eager to read anything on the subject. But I finally took one my second semester of freshman year- and I fell in love. I never looked back. He always pushed just hard enough for me to get outside of my comfort zone to try something new. Maybe it would work out, maybe it wouldn't, but at least I tried and he was so proud of that.
He created beautiful beds of flowers. I remember picking up flowers from the garden center and coming back to plant them in our backyard- careful never to step on the meticulously edged beds. I loved to run Lamb's Ear through my fingers and they soon became the plant I would run to at the garden center. From that day on, my dad made sure his garden was filled with them. From roses to Japanese myrtles and every plant in-between, he showed me the beauty in working hard to create, plant, tend and enjoy.
So tonight Lucas and I will eat a piece of cherry pie, I'll whistle the tune to the Andy Griffith Show and we will bask in the memories of my dad.