Death: Why My Life Started Over

My sweet dad took his last breath on this day twelve years ago.

I was in the room when it happened. In fact, I was the one who realized he wasn’t breathing anymore.

Hospice warns you, you know. They’ve gotten really good at estimating how soon “it” may happen, and what the final-stage signs are. So we were ready, as ready as loved ones can be.

They tell you, too, that your family member will probably choose a moment you’re not minding them, so they can slip away unnoticed. It’s like, one last moment of grace they give you.

That’s exactly what my dad did.

My mom and I were on watch. It was early morning. We’d just tagged out my sister and uncle, who’d sat up all night with him, so that they could lie down for some sleep.

I’d settled into my post, a recliner near his bed, and picked up a box of old pictures. Was showing one to my mom. I can’t remember what it was, but it lightened us. In those seconds of remembering we were pulled away from awareness, and that’s when he left.

I haven’t been the same since.

Because I lost my favorite man ever, yes.

But also…

because it was losing him—working through the cycles of grief, reflection after his death—that ultimately gave me permission, and the courage, to leave my abusive marriage.

Because through the death of a loved one, if you’re paying attention, you realize life is too damn short.

And that it is meant to be lived with a focus on quality, not quantity.

I was not living a quality life, no, and most certainly not a happy one.

That’s when the question presented: Could I live with my body and soul this way, a victim, overlooked, mistreated, unloved, the rest of my own days?

And the answer was swift, perfectly clear for the first time ever: No. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. I deserved better. My kids deserved better. I suddenly knew it.

So it turns out my dad’s passing, his relief and release, was the final catalyst I needed to wake up. To realize not just that I could leave, but that I had to.

My missing him is as big as my journey after abuse. They define me. Both are a daily thing. Some days it’s harder than others. Some days I fully remember and feel all over again; others days I just exist the way anyone does, floating along, doing what needs to be done.

But I don’t forget.

The end of his life started mine over. It’s bittersweet to be thankful for this, and yet… I am.

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