The holidays are always a joyous and sad occasion for me. On New Years Day in 2006, I lost my father to a battle with pancreatic cancer. Devastation doesn’t describe the feeling that I felt the morning that I got the call that he was gone. I knew that he had suffered for the last month and I knew that he was going to a better place but I never imagined life on this earth without him. I never imagined how difficult it would be coping with his loss.
The man that I called Dad for 28 years of my life was not my biological father. But to him that didn’t matter. He raised me from 7 days old and provided a loving and stable environment. He had an infectious laugh that would fill the room. Often times, he reminded me of “Cliff Huxtable” with the silly things he would do to teach me a life lesson. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t spoiled, because I was rotten to the core. A true Daddy’s girl! The Holidays were always fun in our house because there was never a dull moment and I honestly cannot remember one year that I ever went without a good Christmas. Even in my adulthood he would still make sure I was well taken care of during the holidays.
After his death I spent the next few years with a fake smile. I pretended to be happy so that my kids would not recognize the depression that had set in because I missed my Dad so much. Every year around Thanksgiving it became a constant reminder that he was no longer here with me. I would immediately get depressed because I was always reminded of the things he wouldn’t be able to share with me. He would never be able to meet his youngest 2 grandsons, and he wasn’t there to give me away to my husband on my wedding day.
One night in early 2013, I had a dream that I was talking to my Dad in my room. I say a dream, but it really was more of an outer body experience. It was after that moment that I was really able to heal from the hurt of his absence, and where I’d like to pass to you, the wisdom that was passed to me on coping with loss.
Believe in more than you can see
One thing you can definitely tell from my story, I missed seeing my dad or knowing that he was just a phone call away. He told me that no matter what, he would always be there and to stop worrying about the physical form of life, but to focus on the spiritual. It was at that point that I knew my Dad was with me 365 days out of the year.
Remember the way they lived, not how they died
After my dream, I decided to move on from grieving to celebrating the life he made, by honoring some of the traditions that I would do with him as a child with my children. We tossed out with the fake Christmas tree. My Daddy made sure we had a live one every year. Christmas Eve was all about the element of surprise, he would put a few gifts under the tree to make me think that I wasn’t getting much and then BAM… the next morning the tree was loaded!
Find a reason to celebrate
My Daddy died on New Years Day, and for years the day that most people were looking forward to their future, I was grieving my past. But New Years’ Eve with my Daddy was all about eggnog, movies, party blowers, board games and fire works as a family. And who can forget the tradition in almost every African American home on New Years day… Black Eyed Peas! So I honor his memory by celebrating life and enjoying all of the loving memories in ingrained in me.
This Holiday season, whether you have lost a loved one or are simply no longer living close enough to your friends and family to celebrate with them, take the time to carry on traditions in remembrance of what you once had. Try not to dwell on the fact that they aren’t there physically and remind yourself that spiritually they will always be a part of you not matter what. Trust me, you will become at peace with yourself and things will get a lot easier!!!
Rest In Paradise to my Doughboy, my Dad
Rumell Bowens Sr.
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