I try to imagine what you might look like now, five years after your death—at the age of 31. I find myself wondering what might have been. Would you be married and have children? Would you have joined me in my work as you finished nursing school? I lose myself in asking what if’s - Questions I whisper on my lips that cannot be answered in this life. And my tears fall like rain as I look to the sky and ask why. Son, do you have any idea how irrevocably your life—and death—shaped and redefined my life?
I see you everywhere Ryan. In every full moon and in each brilliant day - you are there. Sometimes I hear a voice that sounds like you and - for a brief moment - my spirits soar. But I turn to see the face of a stranger, not yours.
There are days when the weight of grief on my heart makes each breath labored and every step an effort. On the worst days, I sit before my laptop and pour out my feelings to the only person who can take in my sorrow and remain unbowed - me. The keyboard is damp when the final thought leaves my fingertips: I love you, Ryan. I miss you. And then I press “save.” I have hundreds of these messages - Expressions of love that needed somewhere to go. These messages help me exist in a world with you physically here.
I ache to see you again, but I’m doing ok Ryan. I experience moments of sorrow and joy in unison. I am surviving the unimaginable. In loss, I have gained insight and empathy for others that I might otherwise never have known. The rough edges I had before losing you have been worn away. I now choose kindness over confrontation. I have such empathy for those who suffer loss. And for that, I am grateful.
Our Creator sits with me in my grief. He is sustaining me. He has spoken color back into the gray world that had become my life without you. He is making beauty from ashes and has graced me to find moments of joy. I have deep scars, wounds that are a testament to the love we shared - but I also have a clear purpose—and that is a gift.
Today, I will play your favorite music. I will re-live beautiful memories of you through the photos I have. And I will offer thanks for my twenty-five years with you. And as the sun sets on this day, I will slowly heal a little more. I am eternally grateful for the honor of knowing you and the pleasure of being your father.
I’ll love you forever, Dad
Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.
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