It sounds like a long time, but it really wasn’t. It was actually a very short period of time. My perspective of time changed with this number. I was close to my 9th birthday when my dad passed. He was only 48, and he had been diagnosed with lymphoma only a few years earlier. He passed after losing his battle to cancer. I remember saying my goodbyes in the hospital that day.
On Father’s Day, I reminisce of how it could have been if he was still with us. It makes me sad that he is no longer here, and I miss him. However, I collect my memories of him, and I smile. It is amazing that eight and a half years was enough for him to influence my life in so many ways. His actions and his life had an effect far beyond those eight and a half years.
It turns out that I went ahead and became a doctor like him. I did not spend a lot of time in the hospital or in his office, but somehow I was fascinated with everything medicine-related. I have vivid memories of my visits to his office and seeing the cool plastic models of body parts, the pictures on the wall, and all the medical equipment. After he passed, I inherited some of his medical things. Growing up, I enjoyed looking at the pictures in his medical school books with curiosity. I would write in his blue paper progress notes when I played doctor. I also had a prescription pad. To me, this was the coolest thing ever. I would write prescriptions for my “patients” and practice a fancy signature with a fancy pen. I always said I wanted to be a doctor like him. Becoming one was a childhood dream, and I have never taken it for granted. Somehow it makes me feel connected to who he was, and it shows my admiration for him.
My dad loved to listen to lectures on medicine and listen to sermons. Back in the day, before the internet, he had a bunch of cassettes and a tape recorder. He would listen to continued medical education all the time. I remember his car was full of tapes. He would also listen to the pastor preach, and I remember hearing it when I rode in the car with him. I find myself now loving audiobooks, sermon podcasts, and lectures. I am not sure if it is genetics or learned behavior. Regardless of the cause, it only took eight and a half years for this lifetime bond.
I look at time differently now, and I am aware that my actions have an impact. I recognize that time is precious. My perspective of celebrations also changed. I have learned through the years to celebrate little things. Life is too short to not stop and celebrate small victories, be grateful about what we have, and make the most of our time and resources. I have learned to cheer for ordinary things that bring me joy, and I don’t need a special occasion to celebrate life.
This is my story of grief. My life was different after loss, I see the world in a different way, and my appreciation for the present grows as I get older. Grief has made me ponder more about my life on Earth and how I want to live it with purpose and intention. Grief has made me cry easier with those that have had a loss too. I have been made aware of the fragility of life. It has given me resilience; I can better understand that challenges will always come, but we can overcome them with faith and hope.
On this Father’s Day holiday, I hope that you get to slow down and savor what you have. Take a close look at the right here, right now. Don’t miss an opportunity to love more, hug a little longer, celebrate louder, and don’t wait any longer to forgive and let go. Enjoy the loved ones around you, flaws and all. If you are a parent, you have such an opportunity to influence your little ones and make an impact. You will never know how close they are watching and how your actions matter. If your dad is with you, don’t hold back your love. Tell him you love him, tell him a lot.
Happy Father’s Day in heaven, Dad! I love you. Thank you for your legacy. I miss you, but I am so grateful for those eight and a half years.
Mildred Perea-Bonet is a pediatrician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com