This is my first year living without you. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know it would be this hard.

I didn’t know I would break down while cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast, because that’s when I would have phoned you. I didn’t know I would cry once again looking outside at the rain, the perfect weather to suit my current moodAnd I didn’t know how much I would need those consoling hugs from your grandsons, the ones who remind me of you more and more the older they get.

Hudson can say “grandpa” now. I wish you could have heard him say it. He has your solid build and your kind heart.

Hayden is so much bigger than when you held him last. He’s already a year old, Dad. He was only three weeks old when we lost you. He has your smile and your happy demeanor.

And Taven, can you believe he’s almost a teenager? He definitely has your sense of humor—and your stubbornness. 

I wish you could have been here to watch these boys grow up.

I wish you could have taught them about cars or cooked them one of your famous barbecued meals (you also knew how to make a mean mac ‘n cheese). I wish you could have built or drawn them something they’d treasure, just as you used to do for me. You were so talented, Dad.

I wish they had many more years of birthday cards with heartfelt messages in them. I wish you could be there to cheer them on at sports games and school concerts. I wish you could be there to watch them graduate and get married. I wish they could see all you had to offer as a dad and a grandpa and maybe one day, a great-grandpa.

We weren’t ready to lose you yet, Dad. One day short of two months from your diagnosis—when we were told you had three to nine months left—was too soon. It would always have been too soon.

You had so much life left to live. So many more memories to make.

It hurts unbelievably to think that my youngest kids won’t remember you. But I promise you this, Dad—they will know you. They will see pictures and hear stories and know what a great man you were. I will make sure of it.

Not a day, or hardly even a minute, goes by that I don’t think of you. I talk to you all the time and I still know what you would say in response. I’m scared to lose that. I don’t want to forget what your big bear hugs felt like or the way you smelled. Those are things pictures and videos just can’t capture.

People say it gets easier, and maybe it does. The hurt never really goes away, but you learn to live with it. Death becomes a way of life.

But when I hear one of your favorite songs, or feel the urge to pick up the phone and call you—that’s when it hits me.

I break down like I did the moment you took your last breath. Grief isn’t something you can control or wish away. It’s always there, ever-present, just waiting to strike.

And today, it’s like a heavy cloak hanging over my shoulders. The tears are ready to fall. I’m trying to keep it together, trying to push through because as much as I am missing you, I am trying to enjoy this day with the family I still have. They understand, of course, and I know they miss you, too.

Thank you for supporting me, believing in me, teaching me, being there for me, and loving me, Dad. While I can’t pick up the phone for those words of dad wisdom, I can draw on the love and memories you left me with. And that—that’s something I can smile about.

In loving memory of Alvin (Al) Rehberg

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To Those Who Know the Bitter Hurt of Losing a Parent

Even Though You’re In Heaven, Your Grandchildren Will Know You

Trina Rehberg Boyko

Trina Rehberg Boyko is a writer in Winnipeg, MB.