Hey there beautiful friends, let me tell you a little story….
Just a few years ago I was sitting outside on a church step, with a pack of Marlboro’s in one hand, and a lighter in the other. I tried my hardest to not light one, but fuck it was hard, and I was addicted.
That day, my life changed. And it happened, in a way, I never imagined it would.
That morning he walked me down the aisle. As he held me tight, I knew he wasn’t ready to let his baby girl go, but together, we knew that this was the last time. He stopped for a moment, leaned in and whispered in my ear “you’ll always be my baby girl, but now, it’s time for me to let go.” Just like that, he was gone, and I was left, standing there, all alone.
My knees were buckling as I slowly walked down the aisle. I made it to the last three stairs and stood there, wondering did I have the courage to face it alone?
I wasn’t ready to turn around, and to begin this new chapter of my life. I stood there, wishing I could just disappear. I imagined myself, all alone, balled up in a corner, screaming, crying; feeling whatever the fuck this was. As I had no clue, it was all, foreign to me.
But there, in that moment, while I was hanging on for dear life, there was nothing left to do, but stand tall. I stood at the altar, turned around and looked out at the sea of faces. I breathed the deepest breath. Almost as if it was my first one, and as I exhaled I began. My father was the man who breathed life into us all.
He loved, he laughed and he lived, boy did he ever live.
He was the man we all ached to be near. Not just because he was funny and always telling a joke, but because he found happiness, wherever he was. A simple man with a heart bigger then most.
I stood there wanting to run. To hide. To smoke every cigarette in that pack. To pick up a bottle and chug every last drop. To do anything, I could not to feel. I would have done anything to not be where I was. To not be the daughter who was leaving this church without a father.
But so is life, and life is unpredictable.
Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, life comes in and shakes it all up. But I must tell you something. There is nothing in this world that will ever prepare you, for that first loss in life. NOTHING.
You can plan it all out and schedule every last bit, but one-day life will come, in an unpredictable way and throw you a curveball, that will change it all.
And when you’re touched by death, all you want to do is live. And that’s what my father did. The last lesson he left me with, was teaching me how to live.
And not just, the lackluster life that I was living…
I never lit that cigarette I was holding outside of the church. That day, I let them go, as well as so many pieces of me that were living in fear.
After months of hiding and running away from the pain felt from my loss, I began to wonder what was it that my father saw in me? He had spent my entire life bragging to his friends about how amazing I was.
But truthfully, I didn’t feel amazing. I couldn’t even pinpoint, any part of me that he felt was worth talking about. I was lazy, unmotivated and unworthy: a 30-year-old high school dropout, living a life, with little challenges.
I had a job. But there was no opportunity for growth. I wasn’t healthy, emotionally or physically. I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and spending way too many nights out, socializing until the wee hours of the morning.
To be honest, I was ashamed in myself. I spent more than a year depressed until one morning when I woke up and had an epiphany. I realized that even if I wasn’t the person my father thought I was, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t still become that person. I was going to turn my life around and be the person that I had always envisioned, the one my father always saw.
Where was I going to start?
I started by taking a few classes at the local community college. Eventually, I found myself with enough credits to transfer to a four-year state school. I put down my cigarettes and picked up my old, beat-up running shoes. The open road offered me an opportunity to reconnect with my own personal thoughts, but to also talk with my father. Running brought me peace. I began to run regular races and with each and every race I ran I found that I was changing. My self-doubt had taken a new shape and was being formed into self-confidence.
I was on a new path, a healthy path that would ultimately bring me peace.
When I started to challenge myself, I actually began achieving things in life that were larger than any personal vision I previously had. I graduated with honors (Phi Alpha) and because of this, I was accepted into a Master’s program at the University of Southern California. I went from being a college dropout to being accepted into one of the most prestigious schools in the United States. I was starting to see less and less of the old me, and more and more of the new me. The paranoia and self-doubt that had crippled me disappeared, and it was replaced with an incessant desire to push the envelope and try harder at life!
I decided to pack up all of my belongings and leave my home state of Connecticut for California. I left the past I was holding onto for so long, for the new future that I was assured was waiting for me. What I found was amazing.
What I found was a new chance at life!
It has almost been ten years since I lost my father. What I realize now, and didn’t realize then, is that my father gave me life, not once but twice. He breathed it into me the first time he held me in his arms on the day I was born, and he did it again with his last breath. You see the loss of my father prompted me to change my life, and I am not sure that I would have been strong enough to change before.
There are pieces of my father that I will never be able to have again. I would give anything to hold my father’s hand. I would give anything to hear his voice, his laugh or even just be able to look at him. These pieces of him are lost forever, but what I have been left with is something much deeper. I have been left with a second chance at life. I know that it was his last breath that brought life back to mine. It was because of that last breath that I am where I am today, filled with love, acceptance and desire to succeed beyond any previous personal limitations.
For the first time in my life, I am whole.
Do you ever wonder about how your life could be different if you had responded to an event or circumstance in a different way?