It all started with the picture above.
What could this orange tree possibly have to do with my dad?? Read on.
I hadn’t planned on writing about my dad’s passing, yet here I sit. So many things are rushing to my head that I almost feel it’s too overwhelming to organize my thoughts. Here I go…
Losing a loved one.
I often get asked how I’m dealing? If it gets easier? If time really heals? Besides my own dad, I have experienced quite a bit of loss in my life. I will get down to all the nitty-gritty questions, but let’s backtrack.
It will be four long years this June that my dad isn’t with us anymore. I know our family is among the MANY that have lost a loved one to cancer; my dad was taken by Pancreatic Cancer. Unfortunately, we come from three straight generations who have lost to this particular battle. The odds aren’t in our favor. Am I scared for my own life? My brother & sister? My son? YOU BET. Every fucking day. It’s MORE than a struggle. Will my own stress over this manifest itself into a harsh reality?! I know my mind is the most powerful thing, & if I’m being honest, it rules me a lot of the time.
I’ve heard many people say that losing a loved one unexpectedly is harder than losing someone to say, cancer. I don’t deny that at all. Who am I to say what’s harder?? It’s ALL fudging hard. It’s THE hardest thing to go through, period. I can’t explain watching someone you love wither away before your eyes… watching the twinkle in their eyes fade… watching them no longer in control of their own body… & hearing the last breathe they take. Yea, shit got real.
I’m not going to sugar coat this because I know that I’m not alone. I know that people are struggling, just as I am. I want you to know it WILL be ok. YOU WILL, be ok. It’s ok to let loose & ugly cry sometimes. You do it, because it helps.
I remember that night so vividly up until my dad grew his wings. I remember just crumbling to my knees, YELLING NO, NO! I was angry. I was beyond angry, & I was six months pregnant. The ugly crying didn’t stop. I recall up until about an hour after the news & having to say goodbye to his body, & then the night turned into a blur. Actually, the next few months up until my son was born were all a blur. The ugly crying didn’t stop for a while guys. To be frank, they still make their appearance, but much less frequent. Hang in there, I promise this will turn happier soon ;)
I had a pretty damn happy childhood. I loved my family, friends, & where I grew up. Driving to our house was the best, especially on a warm summer’s night! The last mile & a half drive to our house was FILLED with blossoming orange trees on both sides of the road. The warm air would hit my face just as hard as that GORGEOUSLY strong smell of orange blossoms. That is my favorite smell to this day, hands down.
Fast forward. I was 14 when we moved to our house on the other side of town. The house remains my dad’s, to this day. He had planted orange trees among other citrus trees on both sides of our house. In my early 20s, my brother & sister were in college & had already moved out of the house. My dad & I shared some great memories during this time. The orange trees were still very small at this point, but were indeed fruit bearing! My dad & I would stand together by the trees, peeling our oranges with juice dripping down our fingers, enjoying the sweetness of the oranges! I would always feel super weird about peeling them & throwing them on the ground, but my dad would reassure me it’d turn into compost.
Fast forward again. I lost my dad when I was 25 years old.
I’m currently 29 right now. In the past four years I have found it extremely difficult to go to his home, our home. I know my brother & sister have so many wonderful memories with him, but a lot of mine include time spent together at that house. I haven’t even been to his home a handful of times in the past four years since he’s been gone. This is where the orange trees come into play again. My mom & sister have been working tirelessly on making the house bright & happy again so we can finally sell the house—let go. My mom had asked me to come see all the work they’d put into it, & of course, I went.
I went. I went & I was overwhelmed. Don’t worry, it was a good overwhelmed :) I walked around back to the blossoming orange trees where my dad & I once stood laughing & enjoying our oranges together. I had an outer body experience, it’s like I was looking at those memories come to life. I stood there staring & smiling. I looked at the trees that were once SO small & barely fruit bearing. I looked at these beautiful trees today & they had ROSE up!! They had grown SO tall & filled in SO much in just four years! Their size & beauty absolutely took my breath away. Those were his baaaaabies <3 I ugly cried, but I was HAPPY. He had planted & nurtured those trees into the stunning trees they are today. I couldn’t walk away from them. Those damn trees made me so so happy it’s ridiculous!
Yes, I’m totally ugly crying right now.
Though I remember it like it was yesterday, it wasn’t. It’s been almost four whole YEARS & those orange trees are a symbol of time. It made me realize that though the struggle can sometimes feel so real & like you haven’t made any progress… you realize you have actually come a long way! The ugly crying is less & less. This doesn’t mean I don’t miss him; I think about him EVERY single day. What I’m trying to say for the people that are feeling hopeless… is that it WILL get better. I’m still grieving, but what I’m discovering is that I remember less of “the end” & the awful images that are burned into my brain, those are gradually fading out. The sadness is slowly being replaced with the HAPPY memories of him. I’m finally starting to smile & only remember the good times spent with my dad, like driving through the scent of orange blossoms to the place we called home, or when we stood under our orange trees when he was healthy & happy! I do believe that time helps. Does it make it easier? No, a piece of your heart will always be missing. But instead of only ugly crying when you think about your loved one, there WILL come a day when you start smiling & remembering them the way they’d want you to. I’m just now starting to understand that. In time, that frown WILL turn upside down :) Hang in there.
I love you, dad. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t wish you were here. But we will ALL be ok, I know you have our back <3
Thank you for writing this darling!
My Dad passed June 1999. My ugly crying is rare now but relive those last few days often. Living over here made it easier ( and sometimes harder). When he comes to me, he puts his hand on my right shoulder while standing behind me. About 12 years ago now, I got a tattoo of an eagle on that shoulder...the same one he had on his arm! He is always with me and that makes me smile!!
I wish you all such a long and happy life !! God Bless you K! ❤️
Awwww Tracey, that's SO beautiful about your dad! What an amazing tribute to him <3 I'm sure it's helped you feel even MORE connected :) I love it. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my precious memories!!
Your blog touched my heart. I too have beautiful memories of your dad. He and I would be the ones who sat in the front seat, because your mom, and Phil, my ex were always to tired to see a movie to the end. I still hear him, with his lovely voice, say “ how are you dear?” I miss him, but I know he is there to catch us when it’s our turn to cross over. With him on the other side we have no fear. He really has always loved us. I know he loved me, as I loved him. He is so very proud of you, we all are. Hugs ? and kisses ?.
Thank you so much for the beautiful memories of him! You're SPOT ON, I can 100% hear him saying "how are you dear?" <3 <3 <3 Yes yes yes! Thanks Viv :) Love you!!!
So beautifully written. I swear I smelled orange blossoms while reading (and ugly crying). Ha! You are stronger than you think, little girl. You made your dad proud while he was with us, and you made him proud with this tremendous expression of your feelings. And you made me proud. Sending so much love your way.
Awwww <3 Thank you so much for the sweet words & for reading my (long) post :) I hope I continue making him proud!