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one-year anniversary

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my dad passing away. I wrote about it back then (here and here), sharing all the personal and vivid details of the day, hoping that it would allow for others to live vicariously through my experience, and thereby change the way they view death and dying and life itself.

In the months that followed my dad’s passing away, there were many people who checked in with the four of us (his kids/my siblings and me) to ask how we were holding up. If we were still doing as okay as we had been at the time or if we were having a tough time managing our ‘loss’. I reassured them that we were doing fine. No big breakdowns or difficulty in moving forward. Some people found it strange, the way we dealt with death so gracefully, so easily, so simply. There were people who were waiting for us to have our breakdowns and puffy eyes.

But almost all the sadness, the difficulties, the thoughts about what life would be like without dad, we’d had them all before he passed away. We talked about what would happen, we imagined different scenarios, we talked about how dad would still be around even when he was gone. Knowing he was going to die was a big ‘help’. We got to ask questions and ponder all of our potential emotionals. We got to cry and be sad while still in dad’s arms.

When the time came, we were truly okay.

Now, a year later, and while I only want to speak for myself, I know the four of us are all okay. I think the biggest thing I experienced was that life doesn’t stop. There’s no pause button to hit when you get tired, need a break, or want to zoom out and take everything in, take time to process everything. Life seemed to only speed up. Before I knew it I was moving back to mom’s home in the Caribbean, together with Rowena and Christiaan, leaving Marjolein with her own lovely family in the Netherlands. Before I knew it, it was my birthday, Christmas, New Years, and it wasn’t weird that he wasn’t there. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t angry.

Throughout a large part of my childhood, it was my mom who was always there. Living in a different country than my dad, it means Christmasses were always with one of the the two parents, New Years was often with friends, birthdays always included mom, Rowena, and Christiaan, but almost never dad. It was just the way things were. There was a part of me that used to be angry and sad about this, about the lack of presence. But looking back, besides that we chose these opportunities and learning experiences in our lives, it also all prepared me for now. Not always having dad around for a large part of my childhood makes not having him around now easier.

And even though he’s not physically around, I feel him close by all the time.

In every butterfly that flutters through the air, when swallows fly by, when drinking wine on the terace, or when someone shakes my hand – I am transported to moments when dad would share little facts or annecdotes about these things. How a butterfly stands for transformation; how a swallow always returns home; how we should enjoy life, soaking up sun and wine; and how a handshake should always be firm, but not too strong either. Just little things that he taught us, shared with us. Whenever these appear I feel happy. I don’t miss him. I feel like he’s still here and it gives me no reason to miss him.

Sometimes feeling him close by and not missing him, also posses a challenge. There are moments when I wish he could’ve seen my accomplishments, could’ve listened to my thoughts. I talk to him anyways, sometimes out loud, saying ‘hi dad!’ and waving towards the sky. Other times in a mere whisper, telling him about my thoughts, emotions, accomplishments.

This past Sunday I published my first book, On My Way. I told him about it the few days before, looking up at the sky and telling him about my book. And last night, when I read it out loud to my family, I know that he, too, was listening to the words he’d already read over my shoulder. I’m certain he was there, alongside me, during my writing journey.
There was a piece of me that felt sad, or rather, emotionally triggered at his absence for this grand milestone in my life, but after acknowledging the emotions that I felt, I decided to focus on the feeling that he was with me throughout my whole journey, and that there’s nothing he doesn’t already know. If they have a printing press in heaven then I’m sure he’s already read the book from cover to cover. If they don’t he’ll have to deal with the Kindle version.

Knowing today would mark the one-year, I initially felt a little odd. I won’t be able to visit his grave. Although to me it doesn’t feel like that’s where he is anyways. Maybe it’s simply an easy-access ‘communication portal’? I won’t spend the day with my family, celebrating him and toasting to his life, enjoying funny stories and happy memories. But being a world away, I am happy to be with Rowena and Christiaan, and mom on this special day. While I’ll miss Marjolein’s presence, I feel happy that, at the end of the day, this is my team. My team for life.

We decided to celebrate our dad today, here on the island. We’ll raise a glass and dance, knowing he’s dancing with us. As we celebrate, it’ll only send him more positive energy and joy, because he knows that we’re doing okay; more than okay, we’re doing great. We’re doing what we want and that which he had hoped for: that we continue living our lives to the fullest. We each have a lot that we are creating and manifesting – whether adding a new family member, manifesting creative projects, going after our life goals, or daring to truly share who we are with the world. I know dad will visit me in my dreams tonight, confirming that he’s doing okay; that he’s doing great.

And so today, on the day that marks his departure from earth in this lifetime, I wrote this piece with the intent to highlight how death can be strange, but also incredibly empowering and beautiful. Someone might physcially die but their memory, their energy, and their soul always remain. Sometimes in small fragments, other times in big pieces. But when we look at death not as a goodbye but simply as a see you later, as a re-birth into whatever comes next, it suddenly doesn’t become something scary nor an end to anything. And with dad’s passing away, it felt like a ‘see you later’.

There used to be a piece of me that wondered why he decided to leave. Why he didn’t chose to fight. But I know now that he did what he could and went as far in this life as he wanted to go. There is no reason to question it nor to be angry because, in the almost 22 years that we shared, we provided each other with the perfect learning opportunities and space for growth. And although dad felt like he was done growing, all the things he taught me, showed me, gave me, but also all that he didn’t teach me, that he lacked or couldn’t give me, all of it is allowing me to continue to grow into the person I am today and will be in the future.

He told us that once in his life, after his own father had passed away, he met someone who gave him a hug, that made him feel like he was hugging his father. And never before or after that hug did he experience anything like that, but a piece of him thought that there was some connection or aspect of his own dad’s energy in that hug, in that man. Someday I’m sure I’ll find someone who hugs like dad. And maybe it’ll simply be one hug, like my dad had. But with or without ever finding this ‘hug’, I know dad is nearby and I know his energy is all around me, assisting me in my path as I’m creating and figuring out who it is that I am manifesting.

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