My dad is dead. I’ve repeated these words to myself hundreds of times in the days since his passing, but it doesn’t feel any more probable to me now than it did when I said them for the very first time. 

The day before my dad died, he was standing in my dining room, talking and laughing. We were confirming plans for him to babysit my daughter, and he was headed to my sister’s house to work on her farm. He was taking my grandparents on vacation the following week. My dad was so very much alive, as alive as I am right now.

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How does a life full of plans end so abruptly? It feels impossible to me that a heart full of love could simply stop beating, but somehow it did.

My dad was not old enough to die, and I am not old enough to have lost a parent but those truths didn’t protect us from this reality. 

The loss of my dad has left me feeling adrift and exposed, knowing that one of the two people who loved me unconditionally in this world is no longer there. I was an adult before my dad died. I had a baby and a career and a mortgage, but I realize now that there was a part of me that didn’t feel truly grown up because I knew I had the protection of my parents’ love. I have aged a decade in a matter of days in this strange and lonely place called grief.

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I thought we had so much time. I thought we would both live to see him become an old man and there would be time spent with me and my sisters talking about the events of our lives, playing with his grandchildren, and one day, reminiscing about a life well-lived. But God had other plans, and on my good days, I believe God called my dad home because he had completed his work here on earth and it was time for him to rest. 

But even when I am comforted by the belief that my dad is somewhere better than this earth and that I will someday get to hug him and hear him say he loves me again, I still miss him.

His absence leaves a voidtender and achingthat I know can’t ever be filled because you only get one dad and mine is gone now. 

This loss is cruel and overwhelming because I didn’t see it coming and had no chance to say goodbye. It is devastating and profound because we had so much to losedecades of love and memories both ahead of and behind us.

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The weight of this sorrow is unbearable, but I know the love we shared is a special kind of magic that I was blessed to have experienced. So I will wear my grief like a badge of honor because only those who have loved deeply have the privilege of feeling this kind of sadness at its loss. 

Chelsey McCarthy

Chelsey is the mama of one sweet baby girl and one grumpy bulldog. By day she is the Executive Director of a rare disease foundation. She is overly sentimental and an aspiring writer.