I picked up the phone to call my dad the other day. I was thinking about my car insurance bill, and wanted to ask him something.
This wouldn’t be that unusual for most people, except my father passed away almost 15 years ago. I think I’ve been through 10 cell phones since he died, so his number is long erased, yet I hit the button for Siri on my phone and stated “Call Dad” like it was completely normal.
Every December, my dad comes back to my thoughts with the force of a wrecking ball through my mind. It may be because my mom’s and his wedding anniversary is on the 9th, or that his birthday is on the 27th, or that he died on January 1.
But he is always there.
And it is both a heavy and beautiful burden to bear during the holidays. That’s what grief is, really. Desperately trying to hold onto the love and memories you have of someone while wishing the pain would go away.
While I think after 15 years, I’ve dealt with my loss, I think what weighs my heart down now is what my children miss without him in our lives. There is no one who will wake up the entire house at 6 a.m. on a Saturday by playing The Grinch at full volume, only to have pancakes waiting for you as you stagger into the kitchen.
There is no one who will spend 12 full hours sitting at the counter carving every piece of meat off the carcass to make his famous turkey salad while watching football on a Sunday. When he finally finishes, he pulls out the wishbone to share with the youngest member in the house, always winning the pull but then whispering, “My wish was for your wishes to come true.”
There is no one who will wrap a box of your favorite cereal up and put it under the tree, telling the recipient to save it for last because he picked it out with special care.
We try to do these traditions—these insane gestures of love and humor—but when your father is one in a million, it is never the same.
But when someone lives in your heart so deeply, he always shows himself again. He shows up in an airline luggage tag that mysteriously falls out of an old bag from 30 years ago. Or in a phrase a stranger says that you thought only your father knew. Or in an expression on the face of one of my daughters who resembles him so much.
This time of year is tough for so many. It is a time when people feel lonely despite the crowds, when they feel overwhelmed with wants instead of grateful for what they have, when some feel uncertainty about the political climate and world events and their own health and happiness. It is a time when we miss those who are no longer with us.
But it’s also a time to look for Godwinks—those little “coincidences” that don’t feel like coincidence, but instead, seem to be a tangible connection to your loved ones on the other side.
I can’t call my dad anymore, but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t speak to me. He never lets me down, and always shows up when I need him the most. We are always connected.
You may believe that Godwinks are a farce . . . mathematical, not mystical; coincidence, not divine. In general, I support science, proven facts, and numbers, but there is also room in my mind for God, for spirituality, and karma. And most importantly, the possibility of miracles.
I know my dad will return my call from the other day, because my heart is always open to hearing from him.
Keep your heart open this holiday season, too. You never know who may show up when you least expect it.
Grief is messy and can feel so lonely. It’s OK That You’re Not OK is a great read for anyone who is grieving or supporting a loved one through grief. Don’t have time to read? You can listen here, on Audible.
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