There are 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, and 86,400 seconds in a day. If you think about it, there is an infinite amount of possibilities that can take place in such a vast period of time.
The day my father died, my sister and I had a two-hour tennis clinic at Crestmont Country Club. A few kids stood out each week, but one boy in particular was absolutely amazing. He would stand on the tennis court and return every single ball back without even having to move. It seemed tennis was effortless for him.
That day, we were put into teams and I was with two other people. It was only two people playing out singles points at a time. Though it was just a game, it felt like the butterflies in my stomach were on steroids. I did not want to make a mockery out of myself in front of my coaches, my team, and the other players I was up against.
Throughout the game, I seemed to be the only player on my team who could keep up with the boy, and I wound up winning two points off of him. When we were against each other, the points would last minutes and I did my best to stand my ground. My team was losing, but I wanted to give us a shot at victory.
With time slowly running out, the last point was between us. Whether I won the point or not, my team had still lost, but I refused to give up. The other teams had completed their games and when they finished boasting about their wins, they all turned to look at me and the boy.
I have never been one to do well under pressure, so the feeling of a million pairs of eyes staring at me made me panicky. I knew that if I lost this point, the humiliation I would feel afterward would have been horrific.
After what felt like a thousand hours of running around every square inch of the court, I beat the kid! My coach looked at me like, “You did it. I don’t know how, but you did it.” I walked off that court a sweaty, exhausted, victorious mess.
The one person that I longed to tell was my father, because I knew he would have been proud of me. He’d smile, give me one of his rock hard high fives, say, “Good job, D”, and then would resort back to whatever he had been doing. But unfortunately, I never got to tell him and instead, I was informed that he had taken his life. My victory suddenly seemed to have washed away in my growing pool of tears.
That small triumph was the first of many moments I wish I could have shared with my dad. I kept a journal for the first few months, but it was not the same, because I had to imagine what he would have said. He could not just express to me how elated he was that I worked hard at my job or that I did well in school. If he did try and speak, his words must have gotten lost between the barrier between heaven and earth.
Life does not prepare you on how to deal with the loss of a loved one and it certainly does not show you the ropes on how to get through the first few days, weeks, months, and even years. When someone you care about goes to the light, it is on you to figure out how to cope with the pain. Sure, there are books and articles, but everyone grieves in their own way. Some choose to deny what happened and shut down, while some choose to talk about what happened because it helps them grapple with their emotions. Some, like me, disguise their hurt by making jokes other people may find wrong or inappropriate. Afterall, there cannot be a wrong way to survive the pain if there were never any instructions in the first place, can there?
Everyone’s beginning stages start and end at different times. For me, my beginning stage ended when the denial started to turn in acceptance and I started to realize that he was never going to come back. When I began to accept that fact that I was the kid whose father fell victim to his demons, I was able to let go of some of the anger, shock, and sadness that I had been feeling. As much as it hurt, it was freeing to no longer feel so lost and broken, so alone and weak.
To anyone who is in the beginning stage of this unwanted journey, I wanted to let you know that it is going to be rough. The days will be unpredictable, the nights may be unbearable, and you may find that trying to walk around with a brave face is suffocating. I wish I could have been courageous enough to let others see the tears I cried, instead of lying and saying I was fine. I wasn’t fine, far from it, but I did not know how to convey to others that I needed their comfort and strength. I wanted to deal with my pain on my own. I want to piece back together and heal my own heart.
One of the biggest things I have learned throughout these past 13 ½ months is that you cannot go through life by yourself and sometimes, you need to rely on other people’s guidance to get you through a difficult patch. I know now that I was not meant to reassemble the remnants of my heart, because time will do it for me. It may not be perfect and it may not be back to the way it was before, but I am not the same person that I was either. So, yeah, maybe it is time for a new heart.