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“Given a choice between grief and nothing, I'd choose grief.”

William Faulkner

Dad died three years ago.

A simple, sturdy sentence. One that's true. Without frills.

I read this sentence, my sentence, and still, it doesn't quite sink in. That he is gone, really gone, and that he has been gone for not one, not two, but three whole years. Am I still in denial? I doubt it, but maybe. I think that something else is at work here. I have a theory.

I never said goodbye.

I was there the evening before he left us. We all were. By his side. I held his hand, limp, almost lifeless. I said many things. Things about how he could let go, finally let go, how we would be okay, how we would take care of Mom. These were impossible, but important things to utter.

But there was one word I refused to say: Goodbye. There was something too final about this word. Something wrong about it. Because I think I knew even then, full of life (Middle Girl was brewing in my belly), awash in tears, steeped in sadness and strength, that Dad would always be in my life. Even if he was gone.

And he is. Gone. In the most literal sense of the word. He no longer sits at the head of the long, wooden table, laughing, telling some silly story for the umpteenth time, pontificating about humans and nature and Leopold and lunch-pails. He no longer dons that Irish fishing hat to walk the dogs in the early morning. He no longer hangs up the phone, his voice drifting into some profound and inky distance, "Morn, morn."

But he is not totally gone. No. He is here. In my thoughts and my dreams. In my whispers and my words. In my memories and my mannerisms. In my blood and the blue eyes of three little girls.

Today, I'm sad. Of course. But I'm also oddly thankful for my grief. For how it has changed me. For how it has shrouded me with gratitude and awareness and perspective. For how it has made me feel more fiercely. For how it has rendered me a more nuanced person and parent and thinker and writer. For how it has made me a more complicated creature. Because it has. And does.

Grief is a tricky, boundless thing. It seeps and stains, burrows and blinds. But it also brings texture and meaning and beauty. It's taken me three years to realize this, to get here, but I'm here.

Three years later. I miss him. Quietly. Madly. Differently. Even still. But time and thought continue to work their wild and woolly wonders. Acceptance is beginning, just beginning, to alight.

I never said goodbye. I don't think I ever will.

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Would you choose grief over nothing? Have you experienced hard things in your life that have changed you profoundly? Is three years long or short or both?

How to Find Love

A Windy World