It has been four years since my father passed away. Over the past four years, I’ve shared the lessons I’ve learned from this experience to help others prepare for and cope with the grief that follows death. This year, I asked myself what I could share with you that I haven’t already, or that’s worth repeating. I’m not sure much changes now. There’s a lot of missing–times when loss feels especially sad. Photos remain difficult to see. The paradox of the void and gratitude endures.
I still think of my father often. I can see him holding me on his shoulders in Central Park, tucking me into bed at night, and throwing a ball to me. I can see him crying at his aunt’s funeral, cheering for me at my little league game, and driving me to get school supplies after a long day of work. I can see him grocery shopping for me, teaching me how to ride a bike and drive a car, taking me to college, and helping me with my resume. I can see him smiling as my dog jumps all over him and kisses his face. I can still hear him saying, “How’s my #1 son?” I can see him listening, laughing at my jokes, reading my articles, teaching me life lessons, and caring more than anyone I knew. I can see the last time I saw him and the last time I heard his voice. I can see myself crying for days.
I miss my father’s laugh, listening skills, and advice. Before I make decisions, I still think of what he would tell me I should do. I miss sharing our lives. I miss supporting him in his time of need. I miss talking about politics and work. I miss his hugs. I miss being with someone who taught me so many lessons and comforted me so many times. And I miss having a father. That missing doesn’t end.
My parents taught me to use my voice when I was a child and to live a purpose-driven life. At age 10, I published my first article in a newspaper offering my solutions to prevent Nuclear War. I began writing Kirschner’s Korner as a column for a local newspaper in 1988 to address local and global issues. Every week, my father drove to a local convenience store to pick up copies. He saved every article. I can still see his joy as he read them. I can imagine how he would have smiled if he knew that more than one million people read an article I wrote last week (thanks entirely to all of you for sharing it) offering readers advice to cope with depression during these difficult times. I wish I could have shared that moment with him. I lived and continue to live to make him proud and to thank him for all the time he invested in raising me and all the love he shared.
Cherish the time you have with the people you love because one day, you will only see them in your memories. Tragedy doesn’t always knock. I got no notice. We were laughing and planning the rest of our lives together, and then he was gone. To be given the personal belongings of someone you love is a heartbreaking experience. I still shake my head in disbelief. The finality of death is painful, and I don’t know that anything can prepare us for its permanence. When it’s over, it’s over. Whatever was left unsaid is left unsaid forever. Not until someone is gone do we truly understand how it feels.
Most of me died the day I lost my father. But four years after death, I’m reminded that love never ends.