In accordance with my faith, I lit a memorial candle for my beloved father this morning; it is four years today since he died in my arms. The candle will burn for more than twenty-four hours. Not only does it remind me of the grief I still feel, but it also represents the light that was my dad–and his fervent wish that I would persevere by embracing the opportunities that life offers.
I confess that moving forward is not easy; sometimes even getting out of bed in the morning challenges me beyond my capabilities. Grief over my dad’s passing often imprisons me; I can only find release by lying on the couch and hiding under his quilt. I have learned that grief is not just a pain felt in my heart, but also a source of many of my physical ailments, like headaches, and emotional problems, like depression.
But Dad was a man who experienced his own setbacks and persevered. He never knew his father–a man who died in the 1918 flu epidemic when Dad was not yet three years old. Even so, Dad put aside self-pity by becoming a good son to my grandmother, a strong student, an outstanding optometrist, and a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. His example of surviving and thriving sustained me through my divorce, the challenges of being a single mother to two teenagers, and the sadness of burying my beloved grandma, mother, and, of course, father.
To persevere does not mean that I put aside my grief, but it does require me to not let it dominate my life and choices. To persevere demands that I wake up remembering the past, but also welcoming the present and looking forward to the future. It means living up to the example Dad set for me and then setting a positive example for my adult children–individuals who face their own challenges and demons.
I move forward. I continue to teach at age seventy-one. I usher at local theaters, I fill my life with books from the local library. I arrange social outings with friends. I schedule trips that allow me to enjoy time with my son and daughter. I encourage myself to find humor even in the serious and light in the darkness.
I persevere–because that is how my dad would want me to live.