Dad,

You were my first protector. You were instrumental in my daughter’s world and her first strong male role model after her own father left us. You stepped in and loved us. You were active and involved in our lives, you loved us fiercely and consistently.

I miss you so much since esophageal cancer took you a year ago. Your grace and faith in God as you were dying is one lesson I will never forget. I hope you are up there with Amy, your daughter and my sister we lost when she was just 16 in a car accident. I am grateful you are with her.

You’ve never stopped teaching me, and in this year since you’ve been gone, I’ve learned so many lessons. At times it seems like it was yesterday, and when I look at the calendar and see it’s been nearly a year, I am amazed at what time can do to our minds and hearts.

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I’ve learned. . .

Grief took me to parts of myself I didn’t even know existed.

Some parts were very ugly, and parts were very beautiful. In the end, the people who supported me during those ugly times are the ones I ultimately want in my life.

I can hold your spirit closer to me if I am present with my prayers. 

I learned I am proud of myself. I am proud of myself for taking care of you, for giving you the morphine even when I knew the closer the dosages meant the sooner God would be taking you from us. I was proud I did not shy away from being present as you transitioned to Heaven. I learned I was strong.

I’ve learned I need to treat myself better and get healthy so I can live a long life for my daughter.

I’ve learned there is no shame in counseling. You always taught me to talk things out. 

I’ve learned there is no shame in crying, then laughing, then crying some more. And then telling your kids you need to cry, but they don’t need to take care of you. 

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I’ve learned to write things down because my memory is fading. I don’t want to forget your laugh, your mannerisms, the way you yelled at the Giants if they made an error on the field.

I learned Christmas and holidays are so hard without you, but I am so grateful for the holiday traditions you gave me and my family. 

I’ve learned to renew my faith in God.

One of the most powerful things I heard you say a few months before you passed was this, “I know where I’m going, and I’m not afraid. I’ve lived a very good life, and it’s my faith that’s getting me through all this.”

I learned to give my husband a breakhe doesn’t know what he’s doing in grief any more than I do.

I’ve learned pride is a waste of time. Forgiving and making amends is just as important as all those I love yous. 

I learned it is OK to take a rest and sleep for a day. I am blessed my children are school age, and I am a stay-at-home mom. While the schedule never stops, and there are always places to go, I learned if I do not stop and rest and recharge, I am good for nothing and I risk driving distracted and tired.

I learned grief is messy and exhausting and complicated.

I learned it’s OK to reach out and for life not to be perfect the way it seems on social media.

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I learned emotional time outs and space are so important.

I learned to never take anyone who has been good to me for granted.

I learned it’s OK to move forward and reset as some newer, more bruised, better version of myself.

I miss you, Dad.

Through the years, I know you took very good care of your soul but maybe not so much your health. You taught me that self-care is just as much a practice in taking care of others as myself.

You taught me one of the hardest lessonsthat faith is an action, an everyday practice in prayer and grace when I feel like being angry. I will take all the lessons you taught me and apply them to my life in your honor.

Angela Joyner

Angela Joyner is a stay-at-home mother of two school-aged children in Northern California. She is a lover of all things travel, reading, teaching and managing the needs of her family. She is interested in learning French, reading anything and everything about tween girls and high school boys on the autistic spectrum. Angela Joyner was an educator for 18 years and is now navigating the very different but equally demanding world of the home.