It’s been a year. 

June calendar 1

A small calendar says June 2021 hanging on the wall in my kitchen near the toaster. I have left it there all year although clearly the months kept moving. Father’s Day, my Dad’s birthday, the anniversary of my Dad’s death. It’s all to come this month and in the next.The end of June last year we found out my Dad had “innumerable” lesions on his liver and my world stopped. And so, the calendar did not move. I have not figured out what I am going to do with that calendar and its page memorialized on the kitchen wall. I have learned plenty over this last year since my dad left us.

I have learned:  

  • That after 60 years of being the recipient of his deep love that my Dad will always be with me. I was truly scared once he passed that he would feel so far away or that I’d forget him in some sort of fashion. But he is an active part of each day in my thoughts, my memories, my imagination of what advice he would give and what he would have to say about our daily activities. We watch his sports teams and cheer for them while wondering if one can pull any sort of strings in heaven when his team wins. I am so encouraged to know my Dad is with me because of the loving memories he provided me. He will continue to love and encourage me throughout my life.  

  • My Mom is our matriarch and anchor. I have always been one who  who genuinely enjoyed hanging out with my parents. Now I feel more strongly the urge and need to check in with my Mom in the morning. To sit with her sometime in the late afternoon or evening. There’s always so much to talk about. She’s shared her grief with me and has supported me in mine. She models doing her best each day, always beginning in her office recliner with reading and prayer. She makes eating healthy a science, exercise classes a must. She volunteers and keeps walking through the awkward adjustment of social calendars without a friend of 65 years by her side. She checks her online financial accounts daily making sure everything makes sense. She asks for help when she needs it. She insists on cooking for us regularly and dotes on great grandchildren. She is living fully although many struggles have faced her including more than one scary and bad dream. Navigating the difficult prescription med price debacle has almost been too much at times but she’s fought through the hassles. She's been the target of various swindling schemes because that's what sadly happens to 85-year-old widows but she's persevered. My Mom is amazing although truth be told we all knew that already.  

  • Living by your family is a gift that keeps on giving. My parents moved next door to my husband and me six months before my Dad died. Little did we know he would get so ill. I rarely left him those last 11 days of his life when he wanted to be at home but when I did for that quick shower or change of clothes – how wonderful it was to be able to just run across the lawn; to call my husband in the middle of the night to come help turn my dad; or to have adult children take turns from playing with their children in our pool to instead take a turn to sit beside their Grandpa. Now my heart is comforted by knowing what my Mom is doing when I see which light is on. I love trapezing across the lawn and heading through the back lanai door to see her every day. The playset is in her backyard. The laughter of great grandkids pulls her outside and she sits with me or my daughter while they play. My daughter and her husband and children also live next door. We have a triangle of love and presence that have meant the world especially over this last year. I’ve walked across the yard to help my daughter get her children out the door for years since her husband is gone early for work. I appreciate the love my husband has for my parents; how he misses my Dad; how he helps my Mom with tasks multiple times a week. I treasure these years of open doors and daily visits and the countless ways the young children and the senior widow have blessed my soul and held me through their continual and active presence literally surrounding me and my home. 

  • I love my job. I work supporting leaders in organizational development through a process consulting lens with Design Group International. It has been the perfect Community of Practice to have been connected to during this year of grief and adjustments. I am a learner and have dug deep in understanding more the power of listening, helping, learning for leaders in their businesses that they love. I’ve spent time getting to know my own community more, meeting previously unknown local leaders and leaving respectfully as colleagues. Some of my clients became friends and showed meaningful and unexpected care toward me during those first raw months of grief. Staff colleagues were there for me during an interim term I filled even though we had only a virtual relationship. Flexibility, the ability to choose my interests, and an accessible and supportive environment were necessities to me throughout the meld of work and grief and is what I continue to gratefully share with my colleagues.  

  • Grief just is.... It is now a part of my life but when coupled with gratitude and a lifetime of loving memories can be embraced. I am still sad my Dad didn’t live till 97 instead of 87. He was the young at heart, entrepreneurial, health conscious, active senior primed to reach old age. It was not to be. I’m okay with being sad about that and even at times yet mad. I am ever so grateful that I had him as my Dad for 61 years and continue to have him in my heart for now I know forever.  

The calendar of June 2021 signifies when the old normal changed for me. I then knew my Dad was leaving me. None of us knew it would be so quick, but time stopped all the same knowing the inevitability of a life well lived couldn’t last forever.

I’ve learned to not think there is something magical about reaching that one-year grief marker. One does not get through grief. One lives with, learns from, and goes forward with grief as a new companion. Dawn and Pa at Easter 2021But now I know grief also includes laughter. We have laughed plenty this year. We’ve taken two grandkid camping trips. We were happily reunited with all our children who were separated because of borders during Covid. We’ve flown to meet a new grandchild and celebrated another far away grandchild’s birthday. We’ve traveled for our anniversary and marveled at the beauty of different venues. I’ve been inspired through work interactions and presentations prepared for and delivered. We’ve stayed plugged in our faith community moving from online to in person. We have lived and have much to look forward to in the year and years to come.  

Daddy, thanks for being in my heart. We’re taking good care of Mom. In fact, she takes care of us. We are all working on hitting home runs in our own ways knowing you would be so proud.  

Dawn Yoder Graber
Post by Dawn Yoder Graber
June 9, 2022
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