two years ago today

two years ago today | the merry gourmet

Dear Dad,

Writing you a letter this way – by blog post on the internet – may be a bit silly, but you and I have always been the letter writing sort, and writing letters (or blog posts) is so cathartic. I know you can’t read this, but it’s good for me to get the words out. Or maybe you can read this. You’ve always been able to do just about everything you ever wanted to do, and if you wanted to read this, I believe you’ll find a way.

It was two years ago today – the 27th of February, 2014 – that you died. I remember being angry with you that you waited until we had all left the hospice, waited until the early dawn hours when we were all sleeping. I wish you’d waited until we could have kissed your warm cheek one last time. I wish you’d waited until Tina arrived from Chicago. She really wanted to see you one last time.

I often tell myself that you’re watching us from wherever you are right now. I like the idea of that. When I dream, you’re frequently there, and I wonder if this is your way of letting me know you’re okay. Usually in those dreams, I’m trying to go with you somewhere, and I can’t quite get there before waking up. Or, I’m trying to speak to you and can’t get the words out in a way that you can hear them. But always in my dreams, you are able to walk again and you look whole and healthy, with no evidence of the strokes or the dementia that left you debilitated. And always, you smile at me in a way that lights up your entire face.

The kids are playing basketball at the park with Sam as I write this. You’d be proud of how they are turning out. Maddie is nearly as tall as I am. They’re both beautiful, inside and out, and they are bright and curious. You would absolutely love spending time with them. You all would have the most wonderful conversations, and I know they would love to hear your stories about growing up in Louisville. Maddie might drive you crazy when she rolls her eyes at you, but I’d remind you that she’s in 6th grade and that is almost part of the uniform. Oliver really only remembers you being sick and in the wheelchair, but Maddie remembers you as you were, when you were whole, when you were you.

I want to tell you about things that you have missed. Like, that the Gators have a new football coach as of the 2015 season – Jim McElwain. The team did so much better under him than they’ve done in the two or three years before. You’d have liked watching the wins over Tennessee and Georgia in particular. We gave up one set of season tickets – the Touchdown Terrace ones – and now sit where you and Mom sat – though we did move the seats down a bit. We don’t like being in the nosebleed zone, even though I know how partial you were to those original seats (sorry).

I was promoted last year, from assistant professor to associate professor. It was a big deal to me, something I worked really hard for. I was also the first woman in the history of my division (oncology) to ever be promoted. I know you would have been so proud. I would have loved to have felt your chest-crushing hug after I told you in person. I’m certain there would have been one.

You’d be all worked up if you knew what’s going on in politics right now. Listening to you argue with your friends and with Uncle Ken about presidential candidates would be such great entertainment. I would give anything to hear your thoughts on Donald Trump. It makes me chuckle just thinking of the profanity you’d use.

We’re planning some great trips this year. Sam and I are spending a long weekend in Charleston, and we’re taking two family trips with the kids. We’re heading to New Orleans in the spring and to London and Paris in the summer. Last year, we vacationed in Glacier National Park and Banff. You probably heard me tell Sam several times, “Dad would have loved this.” I’m sure you’ll hear me say it again, especially when we visit Saint-Chapelle in Paris. I’m told the stained glass is stunning, and I know that you will be on my mind as I stand in that church, looking up.

Since you died, Mom has struggled. It’s not been easy for her, not with the caregiving she does for grandmother and with the issues that come up with Clay. And issues always come up. I’m not sure you’d be pleased at the way things have turned out. I’m not, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

I want you to know that I’m okay, though. I’m dealing with grief in my own way. I thought it would get easier over these past two years, but really, it just gets…different. I never thought losing a parent would be such a hard thing to bear. Even though I’m surrounded by family and friends who are supportive and care about me and are there when I need something, I feel very, very alone without you here. I miss you.

I love you, Dad. Maybe I’ll see you tonight in my dreams? I really hope so.


Merry Jennifer

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14 Responses to “our last words”

  1. Janis — February 24, 2015 @ 9:12 pm

    You know I love your writing. It is just something you keep telling yourself. Let that part go.

  2. Maggie — February 24, 2015 @ 9:24 pm

    You know, your are always on my mind. Especially now.

  3. Liz Larkin — February 24, 2015 @ 9:53 pm

    I know exactly what you mean, MJ. I love your writing. Even the sad stuff. Don’t stop.

  4. Whitney — February 24, 2015 @ 10:06 pm

    That hit me in the gut. You are a beautiful writer, and I feel your pain,  literally and figuratively. I am so sorry for your loss, and I help writing this will heal some of your pain.

  5. Flavia — February 25, 2015 @ 11:02 am

    I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, MJ.  Sending you love and strength, my friend.

  6. Colleen — February 25, 2015 @ 12:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing how you are feeling in such clear and wonderful words. I lost my brother a few months ago and find myself constantly experiencing those moments of realization that he is no longer here. It’s nice to know that this is “normal.” It sounds like you had a wonderful father, and I’m sure you meant the world to him.

  7. Gail — February 25, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

    A first anniversary I wish no one had to acknowledge.  


  8. Cherie — February 25, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

    Oh my dear what a terrible burden you’re putting on yourself.  It must be so hard to experience all this as a doctor yourself, feeling that somehow you should have known, should have done, should have said.  Of course you know in your head that none of this is your fault and that even medicine is not an exact science.  But your poor heart.   I hope writing it down, sharing it, has helped it ease it’s grip on you some small amount.  

    Sending thoughts of peace

  9. Frances in TX — February 25, 2015 @ 6:22 pm

    Remembered feelings around a parent’s death are always tough; I can’t say they go away. But we’re stronger than we think and can grow through the love and support others give us. You are fortunate to receive them from your family and your online dedicated family of readers. Thank you for your beautiful writing. 

  10. Eileen — February 25, 2015 @ 6:46 pm

    It’s human nature to look for someone to blame when something goes wrong – even if it’s our own selves. Try to let it go. Your father would be sad to know you’re wrestling with this guilt. Signed, one of your biggest fans 🙂

  11. Sorry you’re even in this position to be acknowledging this sad say MJ. What a beautifully written piece. Your dad knows you (and everyone) did the best they could. And now, he is at peace XO

  12. Paula — February 26, 2015 @ 6:34 pm

    To you, your family and especially your Mom, I wish for you strength and peace.  xo

  13. GeekKnitter — February 26, 2015 @ 7:54 pm

    Such a heavy burden you’ve picked up and carried for so long. Set it down MJ, try to set it down.

    If I tell you that it will get easier to live in a world without your father will you believe me? It’s all right if you don’t, I didn’t believe that a world without my mother was any place I wanted to be either. February 27 may never be just a normal day for you, any more than January 2 will ever be just another day for me, but I promise you, absolutely promise, that it will get better. Peace to you and your family.

  14. Cheryl — February 27, 2015 @ 8:53 am

    Last night as we crawled into bed my husband and I remarked that it was the day, to the day, of his father’s death. 11 years ago. Some times it feels like yesterday and the emotions are raw, other times we can’t believe it was so long ago. We can both remember every single thing about that day – calling the ambulance and the family, the look in his eyes when we knew he was gone, throwing up in the trauma room, the face of the ER doc who happens to be a friend, the snow falling as we drove home.

    But I can tell you this. You will likely never forget those things, but one day they won’t be the things you think of. You’ll have to consciously pull those memories up. 

    These moments are like telling the despondent high school kid lamenting his life that it does indeed get better. We all know that but there is no way they can see that. Having lived through that with both our fathers, it certainly feels that way when you are in the role of the high school kid. But one day, indeed, it will get better. The questions and doubt will melt away and the memories that hit you when least expected are the laughs, the tickles, the conversations.


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