It’s a carpe diem sort of Christmas

A beautiful essay by Becky Suder about the positives and negatives of grieving her father.

Photo by: Shandi-lee

It’s Christmas again and it’s another year without you; they pile up like monkeys on my back, and I miss you.


Anyone who has ever lost someone knows that it feels like you have literally lost them; you wake up in the morning and something’s missing and you can’t figure out what’s wrong until it hits you like a two-by-four.


I don’t want to forget my dad. I like the pain of remembering him, like poking at a loose tooth or scratching an ever-present itch, or banging on your head despite the migraine you’ve got.

His loss was a gift to me, a painful, horrible, hateful, wonderful, delicious gift, because every time I poke that loose tooth or reach into the hole in my heart and grip some muscle and blood and twist, I remember that he’s dead and not coming back.

I remember that I’m alive, and I am still here.

If cancer could take my dad out at the knees, if it could reduce him to a 160-pound weakling, a drooling crazy talker, a sentimental fool with the speech of a child, then it could take anyone.

And if it’s not cancer that comes knocking at your door, then it’s something else. And though we hope it gets to our door last–or a hundred years later at least, we don’t really get to decide. And what I meant to do every day after you died, Dad, is somewhat different from what I did do.

I meant to cherish every minute, every second. I meant to look up at the sky when I left the house in the morning to see the sun and lift my face to its warmth. I meant to marvel at the red of a bird’s wings, at the yellow and black of a drunkenly hovering bumblebee. I meant to smell clover and honey and freshly mowed grass.

But mostly I didn’t.

I meant to look at my children every day, at their growing limbs and the smallness of their feet. I meant to put my hand in the cleft of their chin and nuzzle that perfect velvety place at the nape of their baby necks. I meant to let my heart swell when I saw how beautiful they were and I meant not to wish any minutes with them away.

But mostly I didn’t.

I meant to try squid and octopus and frog legs and passionfruit. I meant to travel to Hawaii and Mexico. I meant to climb mountains, stand at the top, spread my arms, close my eyes, and shout outrageous things.

But mostly I didn’t.

I meant to say I love you to whomever I wanted and whenever I felt it. I meant to say it even when I didn’t feel it. I meant to stop being so damn right and to admit when I was wrong.

But mostly I didn’t.

I meant to be brave and bold and fearless…and sometimes I was.

I climbed down a twenty-story building because I was afraid of heights. I went to Paris and Rome with my best friend on a minuscule budget and almost cried at the sight of the Coliseum. I put my heart on paper for the whole world to read more than once. I spent hours in the ocean losing track of time with the people who mattered most. I told my children I loved them until it was as common a phrase as “What’s for lunch?”

At times I loved my friends so well that they knew they mattered, sometimes I made a mark on a student’s life that I know won’t disappear, and every once in a while I held my tongue when I had nothing good to say.

So though what I meant to do and what I mostly did were two different things, I still have time and there’s no telling what I will do.

But know this. I’ll carpe the hell out of the diem this Christmas season; I’ll feel both the pain and the joy, and this year I won’t try to return the best and worst gift I ever got.

— ∮∮∮ —

Becky Suder wrote this piece long before we talked to Pete Shrock from Comfort Zone Camp this week, and we are a little amazed at how well they align. Grief can be a gift, even during a time when it seems most overwhelming. Read our interview with Pete at the link above to learn more about how to look at your own grief (if you’re bereaved) and how to help someone who’s bereaved themselves this holiday season.

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Becky Suder

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