It’s been one year since you left us and so much has happened. So much has happened but at times it feels as though so little has mattered. 365 days ago my life was completely flipped upside down, my heart torn from my chest and my mind…my mind is still struggling to make sense of it all. How can you be here one second, with your low-toned, comforting, reassuring voice…and the next be gone?
How is it that life can be so fragile?
Sorry for all of the questions, Dad, but that’s what I have the most of. Well, questions and memories. I have memories to last a lifetime, and for that I am grateful, but it’s the questions that get me. I have so many things that I wish I could ask you. There are so many things you still have to teach me. There are flat tires that you have to help me change, and eggs we have to fry in the middle of the night, and places that we have to visit, and… and tears that you have to wipe. These tears. Remember?
I know I shouldn’t be so selfish because you are truly free now. You are free of any shame or any guilt. You were always so hard on yourself and cared too much of what other people thought of you. You shouldered so much baggage for so long, and now you have placed it all at the feet of the Lord. There is no more pain for you, Dad-no more suffering. There are baseball fields to play in, and I’m sure you’re running again. There are wide-open roads for you to ride on and I bet the company isn’t too bad either. Your two brothers were probably there waiting for you at the gates, with Grandma Fa’atali’s eyes on them the whole time.
It makes me smile to think of what you’re up to up there. I hope you’re saving us a nice spot in the shade, like you used to at the beach on those early weekend mornings. I know you too well. I’m sure you have everything set up already, waiting for us like the good old days. Well, Dad, I hope you don’t mind waiting a while longer, because I’ve got some plans I need to see through.
When you left us, I promised myself that I’d live life on my own terms, like you lived yours. Do you want to know my terms?
My terms are very simple: do what makes me happy, do right by my friends and family and to make you proud. It seems simple when I say it like that, but it has proven to be challenging at times. I’ve had to issue a gut-check to myself on occasion for doing things that didn’t serve me and continuing to associate myself with people who use me, abuse me and take me for granted.
I am getting better at the whole “do what makes you happy” thing. I’ve traveled to distant places, tasted amazing food and I am starting to dabble in things that are pushing me out of my comfort zone. I’m writing more too, Dad. Traveling and writing are probably my favorite pastimes these days and also my greatest allies in this healing process. There’s something therapeutic about seeing the world, experiencing new things, and being able to share them through my writing. I am evolving in so many ways, and I’m glad because that means I’m able to adapt and to change.
Grappling with grief for the last year has had its challenges as well, but I’m managing it better as the days go on. It has taken a toll on the family, and I try to be as strong as I can as a son and as a brother. I would be lying if I said that it was easy. Relationships, finances, spirits have all been strained.
But as they say, if it doesn’t bend, it’ll break; and I refuse to be broken.
I’ve taken that promise I made to myself very seriously because part of accepting the fact that you’re not here is also accepting the reality that life is short and it is what you make of it. Making the most of myself is how I plan on honoring your memory, Dad.
The last year has flown by so quickly, that painful day vividly replaying in my head on a loop. The last year has also felt like forever, each day seeming drearier and more empty than the last. I’ve realized that what it boils down to is perspective. Through the greatest loss of my life, I have gained the ability to reframe a situation, transform my attitude and drive the outcome in a positive direction. I guess in a way, you are still teaching me lessons. Your legacy, the things you’ve taught me, and our memories together still comfort and guide me. You’ve never truly left me, have you?
Congratulations, Dad, on becoming a grandfather. Yesterday, Tristen Tavu’i, your first grandchild, was brought into this world and given a name that I cannot wait to tell him about. When he’s old enough, I’ll explain to him about his middle name, the same as mine, and the great man he was named after. Life is funny, and God truly does weave our storylines in a mysterious way. Our newest family member was ushered into this world just one day shy of your first anniversary in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Within the span of one year, God has called you home to be with him and blessed us with the gift of LIFE. I will be sure to share the lessons you taught me with my nephew, and I can only hope to have that same reassuring voice you had that made me feel so safe. Although I wish heaven had visiting hours, and the next trip I take could be one to see you, I know now to trust the process, because everything happens for a reason. Watching you leave this earth was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but our reunion will be one for the ages. So…save us that spot, get the grill going, and eat all the things I scolded you for, because the next time you see me, I’ll be knocking on heaven’s door.